Victoria here, writing about one of my favorite places in London — Kenwood House. I first visited many years ago and feasted my eyes on the stunning collection of masterworks in the Iveagh Bequest and on the justly famous Adam Library. But I admit, the rooms used as galleries, were — aside from the paintings — quite bland. So I was delighted a few years ago to hear that the whole house was to be renovated and restored to the period when the 1st Earl of Mansfield purchased the structure and had Robert Adam remodel it in 1764-1779.
Entrance Hall, 2014
When Lord Iveagh purchased the building to house his art collection, it was primarily to be gallery space, but over the years, English Heritage decided to make changes that complement the architecture and the paintings both. And they did a stunning job!
When Lord Iveagh, one of the heirs of the Guinness Brewery fortune, bequeathed Kenwood and his incredible art collection to the nation in 1927, he specified that his collection should be exhibited free to all.
The library ceiling as it appeared when undergoing restoration.
The painting above the fireplace in the Dining Room is by Anthony Van Dyke, Princess Henrietta of Lorraine Attended by a Page.
Elsewhere in the Dining Room are two priceless masterpieces:
Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of the Artist, above, and
Johannes Vermeer, The Guitar Player, below
The furniture is certainly equal to the paintings and the setting: a sidetable
Above, The Hon. E. S. Russell and His Brother by Landseer.
Above, Angelica Kauffman, RA, The Disarming of Cupid
Kauffman was an excellent painter and did many Georgian interior medallions and other paintings — and is, in my opinion, quite underrated.
Carlton House Desk – the original was supposedly designed for the Prince of Wales by George Hepplewhite.
Portrait of Elizabeth Murray and Dido Bell, cousins, once attributed to Johann Zoffany, but currently unattributed; the version hanging at Kenwood is a copy of the original, which can be seen in Scone Palace, Perthshire, Scotland. This painting of Lord Mansfield’s wards has long fascinated art experts and social commentators. Dido Bell was the subject of a 2013 film exploring her life and times.
In the Music Room
Sir Thomas Lawrence, Miss Murray, 1824-26
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mrs. Musters as “Hebe”, 1782
Another version of this work can be seen in the staircase of Highclere Castle, sometimes in evidence in scenes from Downton Abbey
John Hoppner, Mrs. Jordan as Viola from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, c.1785-92
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra Dissolving the Pearl, 1759
Sir Joshua Reynolds, The Brummell Children, 1782
Magnificent Chimney piece by Adam, completed in 1773,
a fantasy with mermen, flying griffins and cherubs, and panels of Chinese painted marble tiles.
Marguerite Hyde, 19th Countess of Suffolk
by John Singer Sargent, 1898
Also known as Daisy, she was the daughter of Levi Leiter of Chicago, a partner in the Marshall Field. and Co. Department Store. She presented her family’s collection of portraits to the nation. They are displayed on the upper level. Here are a few examples, taken from the website.
Maria Constantina Trevor, Countess of Suffolk, attributed to Catherine Read
Elizabeth Home, Countess of Suffolk, artist unknown
Charles II by Sir Godfrey Kneller
You can see the fabulous collection of paintings and furniture at Kenwood House during Number One London’s Town and Country House Tour in September.
To visit the Kenwood House website, click here.
For more details on the Iveagh Bequest paintings, click here.