Queen's House Lecture Series: Woburn Treasures

Cutty Sark closure

Visitor notice: Cutty Sark will be closed on Sunday 1 March for the Vitality Big Half Marathon. The Park Row car park will also be closed to the public all weekend. On 29 February and 1 March access to the National Maritime Museum and Queen's House will be via the Romey Road or William Walk gates. Our other museum sites will be open as usual. Plan your visit

Essential information

Date and time: 
27 February - 2 April 2020 | 11am - 12.30pm
£8 per lecture | £6 concessions (members, students, 60+)
Queen's House, Orangery & South Parlours
Queen's House
Discount for members

Delve into the history of Woburn Abbey and its world-famous art collection with a series of lectures by leading scholars and curators to accompany the Woburn Treasures exhibition. 

27 February

Ducal collecting, patronage and display - Victoria Poulton, Woburn Abbey

This lecture will examine how objects have been collected and displayed at Woburn Abbey over the centuries. This includes the assembling of themed picture hangs by the 5th Duke and the artistic patronage and community fostered by the 6th Duke including important 19th century artists such as Landseer and their impact on life at Woburn.

Victoria Poulton is Deputy Curator of the Woburn Abbey Collection and is currently involved with the plans for the representation and redisplay of the Abbey. She has previously held positions at arts and heritage organisations including the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and Oxford Preservation Trust.

5 March 

William de Morgan: potter to peers, princesses and polite society - Sarah Hardy, De Morgan Foundation

William De Morgan's Arts and Crafts ceramics adhere to the Socialist principles of the movement promoted by its leader and De Morgan's friend, William Morris.

Despite championing the handmade over the massed produced, and valuing the workers he employed, De Morgan & Co ceramics, which were intended for the masses, were so expensive to create that they were only affordable for the wealthy.

But just who were William De Morgan's elite clients? The collaboration between the De Morgan Collection, Royal Museums Greenwich and Woburn Abbey has been the catalyst for new research into William De Morgan's patrons, who included the Duke of Bedford.

Sarah Hardy is the Curator and Manager of the De Morgan Foundation, an independent charity which owns the largest collection of De Morgan ceramics in the world.

Sarah read history of art and Durham University and the University of Manchester and has specialised in Victorian Arts and Crafts throughout her career, lecturing and writing widely on the subject.

Sarah has previously worked with the British Library and National Gallery collections, before coming to the De Morgan Foundation in 2018.

12 March 

Fair Oriana: Anna of Denmark and Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder - David Taylor, National Trust

Anna of Denmark (1574-1619), consort of King James VI and I, commissioned portraits of herself from the Netherlandish artist Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (1561/2-1636), that appear to have referenced earlier portraits of Elizabeth I. 

Following James’s succession to the English throne in 1603, Anna inherited much of Elizabeth’s wardrobe and jewellery, and in various painted portraits of her she seems to appear as a new version of Gloriana, replicating the iconography of the Tudor monarch. 

This talk will consider to what extent Anna’s patronage of Gheeraerts deliberately created a separate visual identity for herself from that of her husband (and his painters), in a period of growing distance between the king and queen, in terms of their relationship, their religions, and their cultural tastes.

David Taylor is curator of pictures and sculpture at the National Trust, and was previously senior curator at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (National Galleries of Scotland) where he curated the 16th and 17th-century collections.

He specialises in early modern British portraiture and has lectured and published widely in this field. 

David has curated and co-curated various exhibitions including on a newly-discovered self-portrait by Rembrandt, Stanley Spencer and the First World War, Golden Age Dutch pictures in the National Trust’s Collection, and the exhibition British Baroque: Power and Illusion, currently on show at Tate Britain.

19 March 

‘Though I be but a late beginner, I have a pretty store of choise peeses’: Lady Bedford and Paintings - Karen Hearn, University College London

For a non-royal British woman of the early 17th century, a surprisingly large number of images of the charismatic Lucy Harington Russell, 3rd Countess of Bedford (1580-1627) survive - including two at Woburn. 

This talk considers many of the portraits that have been associated with her, and will also assess the reliability of some of the identifications.

Bedford’s interest in portraiture was linked to her commissioning and collecting of material culture, as a marker of courtly status.

Karen Hearn was the Curator of 16th & 17th Century British Art at Tate Britain from 1992 to 2012, and is now an Honorary Professor at University College London. In 1995, she curated the landmark Tate exhibition Dynasties: Painting in Tudor & Jacobean England 1530-1630, for which she received a European Woman of Achievement Award. Also at Tate Britain, she curated the major exhibition Van Dyck & Britain (2009) as well as Rubens & Britain (2011-12).

She curated the current Foundling Museum, London show Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media (ends 26 April) and wrote the accompanying book.

Her work addresses art made in Britain between 1500 and 1710, including the British-Netherlandish cultural links. 

26 March 

'If you know not me, you know nobody': Elizabeth I and the Making of an Icon - Charlotte Bolland, National Portrait Gallery

Elizabeth I has become one of the most recognisable figures from English history. In this talk, Dr Charlotte Bolland will discuss the production of Elizabeth's portraits, and the opportunity presented by bringing the three versions of the 'Armada' portrait together for public display in the Queen's House.

Technical analysis undertaken on separate occasions on all three paintings as part of the National Portrait Gallery's 'Making Art in Tudor Britain' project allowed for comparison of their construction and materials, using techniques such as x-radiography, infra-red reflectography and dendrochronological analysis.

Now, for the first time, we have the opportunity to increase our understanding of the creation and dissemination of this iconic composition through close comparison of the works as they are displayed alongside each other.

Dr Charlotte Bolland is Collections Curator 16th Century at the National Portrait Gallery.

She is responsible for the acquisition, research and interpretation of portraits dating from the 16th century in the National Portrait Gallery's collection.

She manages the display of the collection in the Tudor galleries and at Montacute House in Somerset, and alongside research into the Gallery’s collection, she is interested in researching cross-cultural exchange in the sixteenth century.

Her doctoral thesis explored the relationship between England and Italy through the Italian material culture that was owned by the Tudor monarchs.

2 April

How to run a stately home - Matthew Hirst, Woburn Abbey 

Borrowing the title of the 13th Duke of Bedford’s amusing observation on the Country House business of the 20th century - a phenomenon he played an integral part in creating - this lecture will examine the life of Woburn Abbey since it opened to the public in 1955 and the current masterplan restoration that is underway.

Matthew will explore the history and development of the site from Cistercian times and reveal some of the most recent discoveries that have been made since the house was emptied of its contents and the builders moved in!

Matthew Hirst graduated from the University of Buckingham/Wallace Collection with a Masters degree in historic interiors and decorative arts in 2001.

He worked as Curator at Waddesdon Manor from 2000-07, where he researched and reinstated the Baron’s Room as it had appeared at the end of the 19th century.  In 2007 he took up the new post of Head of Arts & Historic Collections for the Devonshire Collections, managing a major conservation programme and the representation of many of the historic interiors at Chatsworth. 

At the end of 2015 Matthew moved to become the Curator at Woburn Abbey where they are embarking on the largest refurbishment and restoration programme in the Abbey since it opened to the public in 1955.

Discover more about Woburn Treasures

Main image: Regatta on the Grand Canal by Canaletto. From the Woburn Abbey Collection