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The art collection

Paintings and sculpture

Mansion House is home to The Harold Samuel Collection of Dutch and Flemish 17th century paintings and also to some fine sculptures.


The Harold Samuel Collection is formed of 84 pieces and is perhaps the best of Dutch art in Britain. Lord Harold Samuel of Wych Cross, a wealthy property developer and entrepreneur, left it to the City of London in 1987.

The Merry Lute player

This is perhaps the best known picture in the collection. Painted between 1624-8 by Frans Hals, this lively picture is one of a group painted in the mid-1620s of life-size, half-length figures drinking or making music, and wearing fanciful or theatrical costume.

The Merry Lute Player made headline news when it was bought for Lord Samuel at a New York auction in 1963, partly for its record price but mostly because this was the first occasion on which the bidding was conducted by telephone from London.

A Young Woman Sewing, oil on panel by Nicolaes Maes. (1655)

Spinning, sewing or making lace were activities traditionally associated with domestic virtue, and Maes painted a number of pictures of women silently concentrating on these chores.

In this particular example, the young woman has set her lacemaking aside to take up her sewing and she has tucked a couple of packets of pins in the moulding behind her.

She sits on a low dais or 'soldertien' that raises her slightly nearer the light shed by an unseen window above her right shoulder but more importantly keeps her feet from chilling on the cold tiled floor. A map and a painting hang on the wall behind her.

Maes had trained in Rembrandt's studio in the late 1640s, painted biblical settings in his early works and subsequently specialised in small, highly refined portraits.


The idea of marble statues for the Mansion House was first raised in 1850 at a banquet for Prince Albert attended by the Royal Commissioners for The Great Exhibition. The Egyptian Hall was noted as being "very deficient in embellishment" with temporary exhibits being placed in the niches during important events. The General Purposes Committee proposed commissioning statues themed from the works of English poets which were recommended to the Court of Common Council. After a comprehensive selection process and visits to the artists' workshops all the statues were put in place in 1863. Each one weighs in the region of three quarters of a ton and is seven feet tall.

See for yourself an join a tour of Mansion House

More information

The book about the collection, Dutch and Flemish 17th Century Paintings: The Harold Samuel Collection, is available from the Guildhall Art Gallery shop or at our online shop. You can also view and buy images from Collage.

27 June 2017
Last Modified:
07 January 2020