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Exterior view of Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England. Photo: Nick McCann

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David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, and his wife Rose.

SAN FRANCISCO –  The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco present Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House, an exhibition drawn from the collections of a quintessential English country house. Built in Norfolk in the 1720s for England’s first prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall features suites of grand rooms conceived by architect William Kent as settings for Walpole’s old-master paintings, furniture, tapestries and Roman antiquities.

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William Hogarth, The Cholmondeley Family, 1732. Oil on canvas, Marquess of Cholmondeley Houghton Hall.

Houghton Hall brings to San Francisco a wonderful array of objects from one of Britain’s great country houses, and reflects the history of this magnificent estate across nearly 300 years, from the 18th century to the present day. It is particularly fitting that this exhibition is being displayed at the Legion of Honor, complementing our recently reinstalled collection of British paintings and decorative arts,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Robert Walpole’s library at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England. Photo: Nick McCann

Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House tells the story of the structure and its inhabitants through displays that convey key architectural spaces, such as the impressive double-height Stone Hall of marble, stucco and silver limestone; the grand state Saloon, upholstered in red velvet; and the more restrained wood-paneled library, which served as Walpole’s office away from London. Kent’s architectural drawings, also on view, will reveal the geneses of these interiors, which were inspired by both Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and the style of Baroque-era Rome.

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John Singer Sargent, Portrait of Sybil, Countess of Rocksavage, 1913. Oil on canvas. Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall

William Kent was the first British architect to design furnishings in concert with architectural interiors, and a selection of pieces that he created specifically for Houghton Hall will be exhibited. In addition there will be porcelain and silver objects and family portraits and other pictures by notable English painters such as William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds that reflect the aesthetic and historical significance of the house. Other works of art on view will include portraits by Pompeo Batoni, an Italian artist popular among British travelers on the Grand Tour (the traditional journey through Europe undertaken by members of the upper classes), and old master paintings, such as Sir Anthony van Dyck’s Philip, Lord Wharton (1632) and Carlo Maratta’s The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1650s).

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One of a pair of armchairs, ca. 1730. Designed by William Kent; probably made by James Richards. Partially gilded mahogany; beech and oak; original upholstery. Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall, EX.2013.HH.044.1.2

Walpole’s death, in 1745, preceded a sharp decline in family fortunes. Houghton became occupied intermittently, and many of its old-master paintings were sold in 1779 to Catherine the Great of Russia. The Walpole inheritance passed to the Cholmondeley family and Houghton was rarely used. The house came alive again in the early 20th century when Sybil Sassoon, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, took charge of Houghton in 1919, and worked to restore the house to its former splendor. Sassoon had connections with many artists, most notably the American painter John Singer Sargent, whose paintings she added to the collection along with art works and furniture inherited from her brother, Philip, and pieces of Sèvres porcelain collected by her husband, George Cholmondeley. More recently, the current inhabitants of Houghton have added further works of art such as Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones’s The Prince Enters the Briar Wood (1869), from the Legend of the Briar Rose series.

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A view of the Saloon at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England. Photo: Nick McCann

The Cholmondeleys’ hereditary role as Lord Great Chamberlain, the officer of state in charge of the Palace of Westminster, is shown through several objects, including the gold-embroidered uniform of the marquess, dating from 1900, and the gilded throne of the Prince of Wales, designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, the architect who created the great Gothic Revival interiors of the Palace of Westminster. These objects, along with others featured in the exhibition, afford a rare glimpse into the ceremonial traditions that have survived in Britain and remain part of the culture reflected in great English country houses such as Houghton Hall.

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William Kent, architectural drawing for the Marble Parlour at Houghton, ca. 1730. Black and brown ink and brown wash on paper. Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall, EX.2013.HH.132

This is a wonderful opportunity for audiences in the United States to experience the delights of Houghton Hall,” says Martin Chapman, curator in charge of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “Here the visitor can see the early work of the groundbreaking designer, painter and architect William Kent, as well as the art treasures that fill this great English house.”

October 18, 2014 – January 18, 2015. Legion of Honor

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John Singer Sargent, Portrait of Lady Sassoon, 1907. Oil on canvas, Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall.

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Cholmondeley Coronet, ca. 1902. Made by R., J., and S. Garrard. Gilt metal, ermine, velvet, silk, and metallic thread. Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall, EX.2013.HH.062

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Cecil Beaton, George and Sibyl, Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley, in their coronation robes, 1937. Gelatin silver print. Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall, EX.2013.HH.065

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Anthony van Dyck, Philip, Lord Wharton, 1632. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Andrew W. Mellon Collection, EX.2013.HH.040

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Frans Hals, Portrait of a Young Man, 1646/1648. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Andrew W. Mellon Collection, EX.2013.HH.041

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Charles Jervas, Sir Robert Walpole, ca. 1708–1710. Oil on canvas. Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall, EX.2013.HH.093

Throne of the Prince of Wales, 1847.

Throne of the Prince of Wales, 1847. Designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin; made by John Webb. Gilded wood and embroidered velvet upholstery. Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall, EX.2013.HH.059.1

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Coronation robe and train for Sibyl, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, 1937. Velvet, ermine, and silk. Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall, EX.2013.HH.100

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Uniform worn by the 4th Marquess of Cholmondeley, 1901. Wool and metallic thread. Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall, EX.2013.HH.060.1

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Diego Velázquez, Pope Innocent X, ca. 1650. Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington. Andrew W. Mellon Collection, EX.2013.HH.043

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Cabinet at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England. Photo: Nick McCann

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A view of the Stone Hall at Houghton Hall. Photo: James Merrell

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John Wootton, Sir Robert Walpole, ca. 1725. Oil on canvas. Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall

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A view of the Cabinet at Houghton Hall. Photo: James Merrell

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George James, The Three Waldegrave Sisters, 1768. Oil on canvas, Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall

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A view of the Stone Hall at Houghton Hall. Photo: James Merrell

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