Last Look

Not sold at IKEA

Horace Walpole’s curious cabinet.

Courtesy Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Courtesy Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

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Horace Walpole (1717–97), fourth Earl of Orford, was many things during his life: son of England’s first prime minister, a politician, a prolific writer, and owner of Strawberry Hill, a neo-Gothic London estate that arguably started the Gothic Revival. He was also an eclectic collector of unusual luxury items. The ebony Beauclerk Cabinet shown here once stood in the Great North Bedchamber at Strawberry Hill. (Today, it’s in Yale’s Lewis Walpole Library, in Farmington, Connecticut, which is dedicated to research on the eighteenth century, Strawberry Hill, and Horace Walpole himself.) It was built in 1784 to display a series of drawings of children by Lady Diana Beauclerk, one of Walpole’s favorite artists. Adorned with ormolu, lapis lazuli, agate, pieces of seventeenth-century enamel, and bas-reliefs by Wedgwood, and drawing on several different decorative styles, the cabinet is almost like a version of Walpole’s huge collection in miniature—a “large and diverse collection that encompassed many periods and types of material,” says Susan Walker, the library’s head of public services. Walpole included it on his own “List of Principal Curiosities” at Strawberry Hill.

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