In 1779 the family of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister, sold his remarkable art collection to Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. More than two centuries later, these masterpieces, rarely seen outside Russia since that time, are returning to Houghton Hall, the great house built by Walpole. This book illustrates these superlative works hanging once again in William Kent’s magnificent interiors. Thierry Morel uncovers the wonders of Walpole’s collection, which includes paintings by Van Dyck, Poussin, Rubens and Rembrandt, and traces its journey to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, to which most of the works now belong. Other essays explore Walpole’s artistic tastes and collecting habits, and his beautiful house, one of the finest Palladian buildings in England.