Thoughts on Treasure Houses

Peter Stansky takes a look at the increasing number of houses either privately owned or owned by the National Trust being opened to the public.

There is no question that the Treasure Houses of Britain in Washington was an extraordinary exhibition. Within seventeen magnificent and historically appropriate settings in the East Wing of the National Gallery were 700 objects from approximately 200 houses, all in a superb state of repair and ravishingly displayed. In the rooms of the earlier period, with the swords and such, the objects were hardly familiar to us on an everyday basis, Quite soon, however, moving on a century or so, one arrived at the sort of objects we had seen in our own houses, furniture, utensils, pictures. But here they had been taken to the greatest possible artistic heights - an apotheosis of a residence and its contents, that in its sheer scale became hard to comprehend.

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