The Picture Gallery at Althorp remains very much as it was created by Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland (1641-1702) and is based on the original Elizabethan gallery in the south-west wing of the house. At 115 feet long one of it’s original uses was to provide an area for the ladies of the house to exercise in inclement weather in days gone by.
Educated at Oxford, Robert Spencer traveled extensively on the ‘Grand Tour’ in France, Italy and Spain and afterwards followed an active diplomatic career with appointments to Madrid (1671), Paris (1672), Cologne (1673), The Hague (1678). With both discernment and the opportunity for acquiring pictures on the continent, he was the first member of the Spencer family to collect paintings. Within the gallery (see below) are a unique series of portraits of the ladies of Charles II’s court painted and signed by the artist Sir Peter Lely.
At the south end and focal point of the gallery, is Van Dyck’s (1599-1641) famous whole-length double portrait (c.1637) known as War and Peace, representing the brothers-in-law George Digby, Second Earl of Bristol, and William Russell, First Duke of Bedford.
The original Spencer House sofa has a gilded finish which compliments to framing of the historic portraits and contrasts against the darkness of the wooden panelling.
Read the full article in the digital edition of Tulsa People.