The Emperor, the artist and the collector

from 06/12/2021 to 17/07/2022
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A special display at the Wallace Collection, London (6 December 2021 – 17 July 2022) tells the story of a painter and a collector who shared a passion for Napoleon I (1769–1821). Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800–1870), was known for his interest in eighteenth-century French art, yet he also collected works by contemporary French artists. He found in the works of Horace Vernet (1789–1863) the perfect illustrations of his admiration for the Emperor.

Hertford’s extensive art collection, inherited on his death by his illegitimate son and personal secretary Sir Richard Wallace, was left by the latter’s widow to the British nation, forming the nucleus of what is today The Wallace Collection.

The Emperor, the artist and the collector
Horace Vernet, Napoleon's Tomb, 1821 (P575) ©The Wallace Collection

On, find out more about the painting “Allegory of the exile and death of Napoleon I on St Helena” or “Napoleon’s tomb

Presentation of the exhibition by the Wallace Collection

Hertford, who lived in Paris near Vernet’s studio, acquired 46 paintings and eight watercolours by the artist with whom he seems to have been on friendly terms. However, 25 of these did not become part of the original Wallace bequest to the British nation in 1897. These works included L’Embarquement des Pêcheurs, currently in a private collection, and the four battle scenes, now in the National Gallery, London. L’Embarquement des Pêcheurs was sold at auction in 1913. This special display reunites it with other works from Hertford’s collection for the first time in 150 years.

Napoleon was considered by some a hero for creating an empire that encompassed much of Europe and for exporting the ideals of the Enlightenment beyond French borders. Others regarded him as a tyrant and dictator who placed his family and friends in positions of power and reintroduced slavery.

Vernet, who received the Legion of Honour for serving briefly in the National Guard in 1814, was one of the first artists to create a series of nostalgic images of the Napoleonic era. He was favoured amongst nineteenth-century collectors for his skill in painting romantic battle scenes and depicting veterans of the Napoleonic army, their fate and the nostalgia they may have experienced for the glories of war.

Webpage of the exhibition

Opening hours: 10am-5pm.

Free entry

Visitor Information

The Wallace Collection
Hertford House,
Manchester Square,
London W1U 3BN

Horace Vernet, The Dog of the Regiment Wounded, 1819-600 ©The Wallace Collection
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