• 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

  • Headshot of Madeleine Pelling

    Dr Madeleine Pelling is an art historian specialising in the visual and material cultures of eighteenth-century Britain, as well as their reimagining across digital media today. She completed her PhD in 2018 at the University of York, where she was the recipient of the History of Art Department doctoral scholarship. Since then, she has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the universities of Manchester and Edinburgh. Madeleine is co-editor of A Cultural History of Historiography: The Age of Enlightenment and Revolutions (forthcoming, Bloomsbury) and is currently preparing a monograph, The Duchess' Museum: Collecting, Craft and Conversation, 1730–1786, and a trade press book, Writing on the Wall: Graffiti in the Age of Revolutions, for publication. She co-convenes the New Directions in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Art digital seminar series and is co-host and producer of the Travelling Sisterhood for Art Historians podcast.