• 25 January 2019
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
  • Light lunch provided, free booking essential.
  • Seminar Room, Paul Mellon Centre

This talk explores female authorship, knowledge-making and collecting practices within Bluestocking culture and takes as its focus the vast museum of art, antiquities and natural history specimens assembled by Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, duchess of Portland (1715-1785) in the mid-late eighteenth century. It answers historians’ claims of the Portland Museum as a chaotic and ill-informed collection, famous only for its dispersal at auction in 1786. Presenting evidence from a number of case studies drawn from the duchess’s circle, this talk returns to the museum pre-sale, revealing a rich and diverse community of female contributors whose labours there had important broader cultural, connoisseurial and authorial impact. It gathers together a spectrum of individual and collective women’s texts, objects and voices, showing how they cultivated and sustained the ‘museum-salon.’


Image Caption: A Rout at the Dowager Duchess of Portland’s, 1811 by Thomas Rowlandson


Copyright: Museum of London.

About the speaker

  • Madeleine Pelling recently submitted her PhD, Bluestocking Collecting, Craft and Conversation in the Duchess of Portland’s Museum, at the University of York, where she is the recipient of the History of Art department doctoral scholarship. During her PhD, she held a Georgian Papers Programme Fellowship at the Royal Archives and a travel grant from the Lewis Walpole Library. She is currently developing a postdoctoral project focused on elite and middling women’s work as antiquarians, focusing on material and textual evidences of their contributions to art historical discourse, Romantic, national and familial histories during the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries.