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Monday, September 25, 2023

Fine Arts

MFAH’s Houghton Hall delivers aristocratic experience

The Cholmondeley Family, 1732

One of the many exquisite pieces displayed in Houghton Hall is “The Cholmondeley Family, 1732”. Courtesy of MFAH

In the heart of Houston’s Museum District lies the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, adorned on the side with a sign that reads “Like Downton Abbey? You’ll love Houghton Hall.” No truer words could have been displayed and even those words don’t fully embody the essence of “Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House.”

Located in the Audrey Jones Beck building, “Houghton Hall” may very well attract fans of PBS’ “Downton Abbey” as well as art enthusiasts alike. The exhibition, on display at MFAH until September 21, features a variety of different artifacts acquired by Sir Robert Walpole, the first prime minister of Great Britain, and then put on display at the real Houghton Hall in Norfolk, which is just northeast of London.

Upon first walking in, “Houghton Hall” does not seem like it could give the illusion of aristocracy in the depths of the modern Beck building, but does so in a way that makes you seem like you are in Norfolk yourself. The first two rooms you encounter are not much for show, with minimal paintings on the walls. A typical museum experience and not one that you would think is worth the money. All these thoughts leave upon entering the vast and lavish Marble Parlour. This room captures just how majestic the actual Houghton Hall is.

Being given the histories of various individuals and their descendants involved in the history of the house helps put the age of the artifacts into perspective . Some of these objects have been around since the early 1700s but were so exquisitely preserved that most would not be able to see the effects of time. The various artifacts, which include crowns, paintings, and even a dining room table are all jewels in the crown of the hall.

MFAH made sure visitors were transported to eighteenth-century Norfolk. The attention to detail was excellent and the aura of aristocracy was just enough to make the experience memorable. The rich and brilliant history of Houghton Hall was captured in a way that would make visitors want to visit the actual mansion in Great Britain, just to compare.

Stumbling upon the crowns that King George V and Queen Mary wore at their coronation is not something that is done in everyday life, but “Houghton Hall” makes visitors believe that maybe we can all be royal — even if it is just for an hour.

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