With their banking history and lavish home – the Robert Adam-designed Osterley Park, described by Horace Walpole as ‘the palace of palaces’ – the Child family were an 18th century British approximate of the Medici. Sir Francis Child & his sons established Child’s Bank in Fleet Street at the height of the ‘financial revolution’ of the late 17th century. Thought to serve as the inspiration for Tellson’s, the esteemed banking institution of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, Child’s counted Nell Gwynn and Sir Isaac Newton as clients.
Treasures of Osterley explores the Child family’s rise to fame and prosperity through their collection of exquisite art and furniture. As evidenced by the graceful interiors of Osterley House, art collecting was a family passion which grew alongside their fortune. Spread across four of Osterley’s sumptuous rooms – themselves worth a visit – the exhibition highlights some of the most precious treasures from the Child’s collection, such as Chinese porcelain and 17th century lacquered furniture.
A particular draw is the portrait of Saint Agatha by Florentine baroque master Carlo Dolci (1616–1687), obtained by the National Trust to coincide with the exhibitions opening. Purchased by art lover Sir Robert Child at the beginning of the 18th century, the painting was sold alongside other family heirlooms in the 1930s. Now reinstated, it is on show for the first time since its purchase, in a specially constructed walk-in ‘vault’, enabling visitors to sit inside and reflect on the emotive painting.
The rise of the Child family was quite meteoric … Sir Francis and his sons went from strength to strength, and as their wealth grew, so did the number of treasures we can now see at Osterley. This exhibition is a chance to explore the opportunistic world of financial speculation and gritty commerce of three centuries ago. – John Chu, Assistant Curator of Pictures & Sculpture
4 November 2019 – 23 February 2020
Osterley Park and House, Jersey Road, Isleworth TW7 4RB
The exhibition is free to attend, no booking required; for more information, visit nationaltrust.org