Ladies of Kenwood
6 September - 28 October, Quadriga Gallery
Whilst Kenwood House is closed for major restoration and re-presentation until Autumn 2013, this new exhibition explores the intriguing stories of the Ladies of Kenwood, through the sculpture, paintings, furniture and jewellery associated with them.
The Ladies of Kenwood will explore both the “upstairs” lives of the House’s 18th century Mansfield Countesses and the “downstairs” world of their female servants, as well as the story of the woman caught between the two – Dido Belle, the mixed race great-niece of the first Earl of Mansfield.
The story of Kenwood has traditionally been a male one, but this exhibition now reveals the role played by the three Countesses - from the first whose taste was praised by the aesthete Horace Walpole, through to the third to whose decision the decorators deferred (and not her husband’s) for works in the Dairy. A different set of 18th-century ladies came to Kenwood in 1927 when the House and its collection was left to the nation by brewing magnate Edward Cecil Guinness, the first Earl of Iveagh.
The Ladies of Kenwood will feature a selection of female portraits collected by Lord Iveagh and tell the stories of these 18th-century sitters, for example the beautiful Lady Hamilton. Also on display will be the gifts to Kenwood by influential women collectors including 400 of Lady Maufe’s collection of decorative 18th-century shoe buckles.
Kenwood House is currently closed as it undergoes a major Heritage Lottery-funded programme of repair and restoration. When it reopens in autumn 2013, the roof will be secured for generations to come, the magnificent Robert Adam’s interiors will be restored and it will be re-presented to feel more like a home. The closure of Kenwood House presented the opportunity to tell some of the House’s lesser known stories and display some of its lesser known artefacts.