With thousands travelling from across the globe to visit the award-winning Houghton Revisited exhibition, the event has surpassed the wildest dreams of curator, Thierry Morel.
He said: “We’ve had 115,000 visitors, which is an absolute record and we are completely thrilled by it. We were told by experts to expect around 30,000, which is double the normal visits we have, but this has been beyond anything we imagined.
“We’ve had lots of international visitors who have travelled from Australia, Thailand and even New York to visit the exhibition. People have been coming specifically to this area to visit it and it has been very well-received by the local schoolchildren.”
The seventh Marquess of Cholmondeley welcomed back the collection of old masters collected by his ancestor, Sir Robert Walpole, the first prime minister of England, to Houghton Hall, for the first time since 1779.
Many of the paintings and items in the exhibition had travelled from the world-famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to Houghton Hall where they were visited by thousands of schoolchildren.
Mr Thorel said: “It is very important to expose them to art from a young age so they can learn to appreciate it rather than being afraid of it. I know, as a child, the impact these works can have on you at an early age – you remember everything you see. On the last day, I took a group of children around the exhibition and they were so curious, asking so many questions.”
The exhibition has scooped Apollo Magazine’s Exhibition of the Year award, and another for having the greatest impact on local businesses this year.
Mr Thorel said: “It’s been an immense pleasure to bring this exhibition to Norfolk. It is difficult to predict how the public will react, but it has paid off.
“We’re very honoured and pleased with this. The people of Norfolk have been incredibly supportive and this has been a shared adventure with the whole population.
“Many taxi drivers have said to us that they have had an excellent season because of the exhibition. Because of where we are, this has been a great opportunity for people to discover this part of the world and enjoy all we have to offer.”
The exhibition proved so popular that it was not only extended by two months, but it was a sell-out up until the very last day.
Mr Thorel said: “This has been a wonderful collaboration between the team here at the estate and curators all over the world and at the Russian museum, who have all been very generous.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Lord Cholmondeley, which has been an incredible experience. It took someone with vision and courage to embrace this project and he has done so happily.
“I’ve loved this experience and would love to do something similar with other collections.”