Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.

JUNE 21st

On this day in history in 1818, was born Richard Wallace.

Wallace was an art collector and philanthropist, whose name is perpetuated by the Wallace Collection, at Hertford House, London.

Richard Wallace was born on 21st June 1818, at London, the son of Richard Seymour-Conway, later the 4th Marquess of Hertford and his mistress, Agnes Jackson, née Wallace. He was educated in Paris and, after which he acted as secretary to his father, assisting him in the formation of his outstanding art collection. In 1870, when his father died he inherited the entire collection.

Wallace travelled through France and Italy, in search of paintings and sculpture. Lord Hertford had assembled numerous 17th and 18th century Old Masters, to which Wallace added countless medieval and Renaissance works of art. In 1870, he found himself engulfed in the siege of Paris, with the German army blocking off supplies to the French capital. He used his influence with the German military commander to secure the release of British citizens embroiled in this debacle. For this service, he was created a baronet in 1871, and was appointed a trustee of the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. In 1873, he was elected as MP for Lisburn, Northern Ireland, and represented that constituency until 1885, when he retired to Paris.

Wallace was noted for his philanthropy in founding schools and colleges, and in particular for his donations of drinking fountains, known as Wallace Fountains. During the unfortunate siege of Paris, he felt pity for the people dying for lack of water. He donated to the city of Paris, 50 British made elaborate fountains, of stone or cast iron, that he hoped would provide relief in the event of another siege. So, not only do these fountains provide artful aesthetic beauty and outdoor decor, they are also useful in providing a source of water. The fountains are in various designs, but the most popular type was inspired by the Fontaine des Innocents, an admired Parisian monument. It is supported by a pedestal on which four female figures, caryatids, in support a dome decorated with dolphins. The water flow descends from the dome to the basin, from which citizens are enjoined to refresh themselves from tin-plated cups. Most of the fountains survive and provide an agreeable adornment to the Parisian streets.

Wallace died on 20th July 1890, and was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. He donated his extensive to the nation, where it can be viewed by the public. [Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN]

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