Walpole's old masters: Houghton Hall exhibition extended

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

An exhibition of Old Masters art, that was lost to the UK for 234 years, has been extended after attracting "tens of thousands" of visitors.

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

It is back at his family home, Houghton Hall, Norfolk after The Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg agreed a loan.

The exhibition was due to end next month but is now on until November.

A spokesman for the exhibition, Houghton Revisited, said: "Tens of thousands have already been to see it, and peak-time sessions during the holidays and at weekends have completely sold out."

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

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

The story of the works and the exhibition is the subject of a BBC4 television documentary, Britain's Lost Treasures: How Houghton Got Its Art Back.

It will be screened on Wednesday.

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