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…

A Venetian Palazzo in Boston: the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

A museum created out of the pursuit of pleasure and left behind for public enjoyment and education. Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Museum in Boston is a really unique and wonderful place which arguably, almost a century since she died, Isabella still exerts a certain control over. When she left the museum behind, along with an endowment…

“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…

Tudor, Medieval, Art Deco: Old meets New at Eltham Palace

A friend once told me about a country house, just outside London, which was the childhood home of Henry VIII but had also been transformed into an Art Deco masterpiece in the early twentieth century. I found this really hard to visualise – it’s such a clash of different styles! Recently I was fortunate enough…

Collector, Traveller and the Life and Soul of the Party: Elizabeth Percy, 1st Duchess of Northumberland

Happy International Women’s Day! Seeing all the amazing articles and tweets flying around today about pioneering women the whole world over has really inspired me to think about the women in history who I really admire. I research women’s history, so today is really important in terms of reflecting on how far we’ve come as…

Michelangelo and Sebastiano: A Renaissance Friendship

The general perception of Michelangelo is of a highly introspective, tortured and cantankerous genius who worked independently to produce some of the most famous works in Western Art. So it may seem slightly incongruous that the National Gallery’s latest exhibition, Michelangelo & Sebastiano, is actually a celebration of the friendship Michelangelo forged with the Venetian…

Portraits, carvings and Pemberley: Sudbury Hall

Sudbury Hall will always be one of my favourite country houses to visit as it is so close to home (it is another lovely Derbyshire country house), so I have very vivid memories of visiting (including a school trip when I was five in which I fell in love with this 1920 portrait of Violet,…