Walpole's old masters: Houghton Hall exhibition opens

Portrait of Pope Clement IX Carlo Marrata. Oil on canvas, 123x170 cm, Italy, 1669.
Image caption The exhibition will include paintings by Van Dyck, Rubens and Rembrandt

An exhibition of art masterpieces lost to the UK for 234 years has opened at a stately home in Norfolk.

The collection was owned by Britain's first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, but was sold to Russia to pay off debts and to save the family home.

Now it is back at Houghton Hall, Walpole's family home, after The Hermitage in St Petersburg agreed to its loan.

The exhibition, Houghton Revisited, is open until the end of September.

More than 70 pieces, including works by Van Dyck and Rembrandt, have been hung in their original positions and will be surrounded by the original furniture, bronzes and marble antiquities.

It took a year to broker the deal to bring the paintings home to Norfolk.

Each painting made the 2,736 km (1,700 miles) journey from Russia in a wooden crate, arriving at Houghton Hall at the beginning of the month.

When they arrived, curator of the exhibition Thierry More said: "We're so used to seeing art works in galleries and museums [that] we forget those works of art were meant to be admired and to be cherished in the environment of people's homes."

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