1779: Acquisition of Lord P. Walpole's collection
One of the most important acquisitions made for the Hermitage picture gallery was a collection of 198 paintings which once belonged to Sir Robert Walpole, Prime Minister of England during the reigns of Kings George I and George II. He was also a notable collector of the first half of the 18th century, keeping his many paintings scattered amongst his London and country residences. After he fell from power, most of the collection was moved to his estate, Houghton Hall, in Norfolk. But the collector's grandson, George Walpole, 3rd Lord of Orford, decided to sell the paintings to Russian Empress Catherine II. The deal was concluded through the Russian envoy in Great Britain, A. I. Musin-Pushkin, despite a great outcry from Parliament and British society as a whole.
The Hermitage gained such remarkable works as Bacchus and Vulcan's Forge by Luca Giordano, The Prodigal Son and Democritus and Protogoras by Salvator Rosa and Guido Reni's The Fathers of the Church Disputing the Christian Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. The collection of Flemish painting was considerably enriched and that section of the picture gallery now remains essentially the same as it was then: Rubens's The Stone Carters, The Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee and several sketches in oil came from the Walpole collection, along with many of the works by Anthony van Dyck (such as The Virgin with Partridges and portraits from his London period); there were four enormous canvases from the Market series and Birds' Concert, all by Frans Snyders. The other artistic schools were not neglected, with Moses Striking the Rock and The Holy Family with St Elizabeth and John the Baptist by Nicolas Poussin, The Immaculate Conception and The Adoration of the Shepherds by Bartolome Esteban Murillo and The Sacrifice of Isaac by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn.
Portrait of Elizabeth and Philadelphia Wharton (?)
Anthony Van Dyck
The Immaculate Conception
Bartolome Esteban Murillo