What women really thought about “Grand Tourists” in the eighteenth century…

A Caprice Landscape with Ruins, in the style of Bernardo Bellotto, 1740-1800, oil on canvas (National Gallery, London, NG 135) When reading about the eighteenth century and the treasures that came into the country house, it might seem a little bit like only young men were travelling to the continent to undertake the rite of…

Laura Bassi (1711-1778): First Female Professor

Portrait of Laura Bassi: Carlo Vandi, eighteenth century. Wikimedia Commons: find the original here. The last couple of weeks I’ve been doing some reading about women travelling in Europe during the eighteenth century, and I came across a reference in letters sent between the Countesses of Pomfret and Hertford detailing the Countess of Pomfret, Henrietta…

Elena Cornaro Piscopia (1646 – 1684): First woman to gain a PhD

Portrait of Elena Cornaro Piscopia: unknown artist, possibly 18th century. Wikimedia Commons: find the original here.  Today marks 340 years since the first woman gained her PhD. In wake of the wonderful #ImmodestWomen explosion on Twitter, which has encouraged women to own their achievements and celebrate their PhDs and research following a stand made by…

Belton House: A Celebration of Creative Women

2018 is a special year in British Women’s History: it marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, when, for the first time, some women were eligible to vote. This moment in history has provided the opportunity for many heritage sites and organisations to reflect on the stories of women and their achievements:…

Raphael and La Fornarina

Rome, from the Vatican. Raffaelle, Accompanied by La Fornarina, Preparing his Pictures for the Decoration of the Loggia by J. M. W. Turner, exhibited 1820, oil on canvas (Tate Britain, N00503) For the three hundredth anniversary of Raphael’s death, which occurred on Good Friday in 1520 (supposedly the artist's thirty-seventh birthday), J. M. W. Turner…

Dynastic Strategist, Architectural Patroness and Businesswoman: Bess of Hardwick

Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury by Unknown Artist, probably 17th century based on a work c.1590, oil on canvas (on display Montacute House, NPG 203) Elizabeth Talbot, or, as she is more commonly known, Bess of Hardwick, was born into a Derbyshire gentry family that became increasingly impoverished and subjected her childhood to hardships, but…

“C’est mon plaisir” – Isabella Stewart Gardner and her collection

Isabella Stewart Gardner by John Singer Sargent, 1888, oil on canvas (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum P30WI) Above the central portal to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum is her motto: “C’est mon plaisir” (“it is my pleasure”) This sums up perfectly the collection housed at Fenway Court: a unique and beautiful museum created by a unique…