Treasures of Osterley exhibition at Osterley Park
'Treasures of Osterley' explores the rise to fame and fortune of the Child banking family of Osterley Park through the exquisite works of art and furniture they collected. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a 17th-century painting of St Agatha by Italian artist Carlo Dolci. This has been reinstated into the Osterley collection and is on show for the first time after its recent acquisition by the National Trust.
‘Treasures of Osterley – Rise of a Banking Family’ is open at Osterley Park and House, London, from 4 November 2019 to 23 February 2020. No booking is required. The exhibition is included in the price of normal house admission.
The rise of the Child family
Sir Francis Child and his sons were at the forefront of the development of modern banking, during what was known as ‘The Financial Revolution’ in the late 17th century. They were major investors in the new stock markets and founded their own family banking business on Fleet Street, competing with the newly formed Bank of England.
It was a high-risk business but one which brought the Child family huge success. It allowed them to buy the opulent Osterley Park in West London and to indulge in their passion for collecting works of art from around the world.
" The rise of the Child family was quite meteoric … Sir Francis and his sons went from strength to strength, and as their wealth grew, so did the number of treasures we can now see at Osterley."
Highlights from the exhibition
Spread across four of Osterley’s grand rooms, the exhibition showcases treasures from the Child collection. Many of them are rarely on view.
Each object has been chosen to provide a glimpse into the Childs’ lives and work. There is a 17th-century iron strongbox that may have been used to store money and goods deposited in Child’s bank and Chinese punch bowls that belonged to the family. At the time Chinese porcelain was highly sought-after and Child’s Bank offered similar bowls
as lottery prizes to their customers.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is Carlo Dolci’s 17th-century painting of Saint Agatha. A dramatic depiction of Agatha of Sicily, it captures the miraculous moment when Saint Peter the Apostle appeared to her in a vision and healed her wounds. The painting is being displayed in a specially constructed walk-in ‘vault’, enabling you to sit inside and reflect on the picture.
The painting was purchased by art lover Sir Robert Child at the beginning of the 18th century. However, it was later sold, along with other family heirlooms, in the 1930s.
In August 2019 we were able to acquire the painting, thanks to a grant from Art Fund and other generous donations, and return it to the collection.
A 17th-century French ebony cabinet, usually displayed with its doors closed, will be opened for the exhibition, to show its intricate interior. Other treasures include a set of lacquer furniture and porcelain plates commissioned from China with the Child coat of arms.
The stories behind the objects
The exhibition will allow you to learn more about Sir Francis Child, his sons and the life they led. As John Chu, Assistant Curator of Pictures and Sculpture, explains: ‘This exhibition is a chance to explore the opportunistic world of financial speculation and gritty commerce of three centuries ago … Visitors will be able to glimpse beneath the splendid surface of the family’s prized possessions to discover their significance … I hope everyone who visits will come away with a deeper insight into Osterley and the family and treasures so entwined with it.’
The exhibition is accessed via two flights of shallow steps with a handrail. A wheelchair is available on the first floor.
" This exhibition is a chance to explore the opportunistic world of financial speculation and gritty commerce of three centuries ago."