Joshua Reynolds, ‘Mrs Abington (c1737-1815) as The Comic Muse’, 1764-1768; oil on canvas; 2381 x 1492 mm; Waddesdon (National Trust); acc. no. 2304 © National Trust, Waddesdon Manor.

Lecture 26 June

Faces for a House Party, portraits at Waddesdon Manor
A lecture by Dr Juliet Carey

Monday 26 June, 6.30pm

This lecture will explore a 19th-century hang of 18th-century British portraits and consider what roles the paintings played in the theatrical sociability of a Rothschild country house. Ferdinand de Rothschild, who built Waddesdon Manor, was an important buyer of English 18th-century portraits at a time when they were attaining new aesthetic and commercial values. In contrast to a traditional dynastic hang, he used Gainsboroughs, Reynolds and Romneys in provocative, playful and ironic ways, articulating both social ambiguity and cultural confidence.

The lecture will address individual rooms: the Red Drawing Room, which introduced the host through portraits of collectors he emulated and trophy works; a chromatically arranged group of 18th-century beauties in the Baron’s Sitting Room, experienced by their owner alone, or in counterpoint to living beauties; the Grey Drawing Room hung as a ‘Reynolds Room’, presenting the artist (at a significant moment in the construction of his 19th-century identity) through an interactive triumvirate of female portraits; the Morning Room, in which an arsonist presides over a space devoted to paper and books. Themes of masquerade and performance run through the house, concentrated in portraits of actors, singers and other performers and in an important group of boys in ‘Van Dyck’ dress.

This lecture is now sold out