Ranger's House opens to the public with world-class art collection

Ranger's House hosts one of the greatest private art collections ever assembled in Europe and features what collector Sir Julius Wernher called the 'splendidly ugly' 

Dr Sarah Moulden brushing the nautilus shell cup
Dr Sarah Moulden brushing the nautilus shell cup

The elegant Georgian villa, Ranger's House, in Greenwich, has opened to the public following a re-presentation project by English Heritage.

Previously Ranger's House was only open for guided tours, but from today the galleries will be open to the public from Sunday to Wednesday during the summer.

Ranger's House is home to the Wernher Collection - an assortment of more than 700 works of fine and decorative art. It was amassed by diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher in the late 19th century.

The collection showcases the exceptional craftsmanship of artists working across Europe. It includes ornate medieval jewellery, Gothic sculptures, Italian ceramics, Renaissance paintings, 18th-century French furniture and British portraits.

A 'spledidly ugly', unusual collection

The collection is displayed across 11 period rooms and includes a series of 'star objects' that encourage visitors to find out more.

Highlights from the collection include a gold earring in the shape of Victory, the Greek goddess of war, dating back to 2 BC; an exquisitely-carved pendant in the shape of a skull from around 1500 and an enamelled jug depicting the Greek god Triton.

Dr Sarah Moulden, Curator of Collections at English Heritage, said:

'The Wernher Collection is one of the greatest private collections of art ever assembled in Europe, and is unique in both its quality and breadth.

'Many of the works are extremely rare and unique examples of their kind. Displayed together, their individual stories reveal much about the making, meaning and movement of art objects on a world stage.

'Sir Julius Wenher had a distinct eye for quality and collected objects from across Europe and beyond. His particular passion was for what he called the 'splendidly ugly', artworks mainly from the medieval and Renaissance periods. These were typically small, unusual in their subject matter and expertly crafted from richly embellished materials.'

Dr Sarah Moulden holding the memento mori pendant to a mirror
Dr Sarah Moulden holding the memento mori pendant

How the collection came to Ranger's House

The Wernher Collection was originally displayed at Bath House, Wernher's London townhouse in Piccadilly, and at his country estate, Luton Hoo, in Bedfordshire.

After the closure of Luton Hoo in the 1990s, the opportunity arose for English Heritage to work with the Wernher Foundation to display a large part of the collection at Ranger's House on a 125 year loan.

English Heritage acquired Ranger's House in 1986 after its own historic collections had long been dispersed. Although Wernher never lived at the house, photographs showing how he displayed the collection in his own homes have informed how the rooms and objects are presented today.

The Wernher Collection will be open Sunday to Wednesday until the end of September. For more information, see our opening times.

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A close up view of the detail in the enamelled jug depicting the Greek god Triton.
The enamelled jug depicting the Greek god Triton.

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