Built in the 1720s by Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first Prime Minister, Houghton Hall is a fine example of England’s Palladian houses. Walpole employed the architects James Gibbs and Colen Campbell, and interior decorator William Kent, to design a residence that would leave none questioning his considerable power and status. The residence was often used for political entertaining on a large scale, as well as family living.
In 1797, the house passed down to the first Marquess of Cholmondeley after the death of Horace Walpole, Sir Robert’s only surviving son and fourth and last Earl of Orford. Today, it remains a Cholmondeley family home to the present 7th Marquess and his wife and children. Despite long periods of neglect when the house was put up for sale, little has changed since Walpole’s time, and much of the original furniture and fabrics are still intact.
In 1779, when the house was still the residence of Sir Robert Walpole, the magnificent art collection was sold to Catherine the Great to adorn the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. This year, Houghton Hall is hosting a wonderful display of the Old Master paintings from the Hermitage Museum that originally decorated the walls of Houghton. Hung in their original positions in the State Rooms, this exhibition recreates what the house looked like over 200 years ago in Sir Robert's time.
Through the generous support of the Kress Foundation, CyArk provided digital documentation of the house and its lavish State Rooms, and has created a unique iPad application that allows viewers to witness the "collection" and the "exhibit." This permits the viewer to contrast what is currently on display at Houghton Hall (the "collection" view) with the original Old Master paintings as they were displayed in Sir Robert's time (the "exhibition" view).