The History Woman's Blog

Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill at the V&A

Posted in Art, Eighteenth Century, Reviews by thehistorywoman on March 9, 2010

The little blue-enamelled toothpick case left quite an impression. Not because it was so remarkably beautiful, but because it seemed so random, useless even – in a good way. Many of the items currently on display in the V&A’s exhibition on Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill are of that quality, and that’s their attraction. There are little boxes and caskets, finely painted china, vases, a C16th cardinal’s hat, a rosewood cabinet full of miniatures, and a wooden cravat Walpole apparently wore for a party at his home.

Strawberry Hill, Walpole’s summer villa by the Thames at Twickenham where all these items come from, was in itself more than a little bid odd. Designed as ‘a little gothic castle’ it revived the style of the Middle Ages and allegedly inspired the first Gothic novel, Walpole’s very dark and improbable Castle of Otranto. A number of items in the collection either directly or indirectly relate to that novel, such as John Carter’s painting of ‘The Entry of Frederick into the Castle of Otranto’, displaying a scene from the end of the book, or the Gothic lantern that was intended to contribute to the general mood of “gloomth” Walpole was so fond of. (more…)

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