Handel’s Art Collection
We are very excited to announce that there are four new paintings on display in Handel House. These beautiful pieces, on loan from the V&A, are hung in Handel’s bedroom and dressing room. Painted by Watteau, Hondius, Teniers and Riusdael, they represent Handel’s large art collection, which adorned the walls whilst he lived here at 25 Brook Street. They suit the Georgian rooms beautifully and allow us to better imagine what Handel’s home might have looked like.
Handel scholar Thomas McGeary confirms that little was known about Handel’s art collection until the sole copy of the 1760 catalogue for the posthumous auction of his collection was published in 1985. The auction took place a year after the composer had died and the catalogue documents the artist and title of each work.
The themes depicted in Handel’s art collection are an assortment of landscapes, still lifes, animals, religious scenes and portraits in oils as well as a selection of prints and maps. The catalogue reveals that nearly half of Handel’s paintings were landscapes, and by some of the most influential artists of the field including Poussin, van Ruysdael, Hondius and Teniers. Landscape paintings were a popular choice for the enlightened upper classes in 18th-century London, influenced by a general interest in Italy and mainland Europe where artists created and mastered a tradition of landscape painting throughout the 17th and 18th century.
Handel also owned two paintings by Watteau whose work depicts festive scenes of balls and masquerades in parklands and landscape settings. In these paintings, Handel’s interests in both theatre and nature are combined.
Although our new paintings match by title and artist to ones listed on the 1760 auction catalogue, the descriptions on the catalogue are rather vague. Furthermore, numerous versions of a same theme were often executed by these artists, which makes it difficult for us to track down the exact paintings that were part of Handel’s collection at 25 Brook Street.
Whilst we cannot say for certain that these are the very paintings that Handel owned, they provide a good representation of Handel’s taste in art and allow us to better understand how Handel furnished his home.