Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800-1870), was one of the greatest collectors of the 19th century. He shaped the character of the Wallace Collection by purchasing the great majority of the French 18th-century furniture and porcelain as well as most of the premier Old Master paintings now in the Wallace Collection.
Because he bought art on such a large scale, a good portion of his collection was kept in store, though he was a generous lender to contemporary exhibitions. Despite rarely seeing his London collection because he resided in Paris, Lord Hertford invariably referred to it as his ‘Manchester Children’ in correspondence. His fortune was so vast that only that of the Rothschilds could offer serious competition in the auction sale rooms.
Lord Hertford was brought up in Paris by his mother, Maria Fagnani, 3rd Marchioness of Hertford, better known as Mie-Mie. He studied in Oxford and became an MP for County Antrim in 1819. He retired from Parliament in 1826 and was later attached to the British Embassy in Constantinople. He settled in Paris and bought Bagatelle, a small pleasure chateau in the Bois de Boulogne designed for the Comte d’Artois, future Charles X, in 1835. Despite travelling little, the 4th Marquess nevertheless visited Italy in 1838 and returned to Rome in 1845.
Lord Hertford died at Bagatelle on 24th August 1870 after the French declaration of war on Prussia. His last purchase was a French 18th-century piece of furniture on 27th May 1870.