The Iveagh Bequest is named for Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh (1847–1927) and heir to the world’s most successful brewery. The forty-eight paintings in this exhibition are mostly drawn from Lord Iveagh’s collection and represent the greatest artists of their periods, including Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599–1641), Thomas Gainsborough (English, 1727–1788), Sir Joshua Reynolds (British,1723–1792), Frans Hals (Dutch, ca. 1581–1666), and J. M. W. Turner (English, 1775–1851).
Portraiture, landscape, and seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish works dominated English aristocratic collections in the late nineteenth century, and the Iveagh Bequest is very representative of that tendency. A highlight of the exhibition is Rembrandt’s famous "Portrait of the Artist" (ca. 1665), one of the artist’s last self-portraits and one of only a few of his many self-portraits that show him in the act of painting. The picture suggests Rembrandt’s confidence in his reputation as an artist. Seeming to be a bit larger than life, the figure of Rembrandt benignly dominates the viewer. Among the several fine Gainsboroughs in the exhibition is the full-length portrait "Mary, Countess Howe" (ca. 1764). Such portraits were very popular during this period, owing to a great admiration for the aristocratic portraits of the seventeenth-century artist Anthony van Dyck, who was royal painter to Charles I of England. The exhibition features two portraits by Van Dyck, including the impressive "Princess Henrietta of Lorraine Attended by a Page" (ca. 1634).
In addition to collecting portraits of lovely ladies, Lord Iveagh was not immune to Victorian sentimentality, and included paintings of children in his collection. These portraits often served as reminders of the fleeting innocence of youth. One of the masterpieces of this genre is "Miss Murray" (1824–26) by Thomas Lawrence, depicting a charming three-year-old girl gathering flowers in the lap of her dress. (Georgie noted that the "little princess" style hasn't changed much in almost two hundred years--.)
We were very glad to have the opportunity to see these fine paintings in real life: those that were familiar are much more impressive life-size. Georgie was fascinated to find some by the well-known masters that she'd never seen reproduced anywhere.
he Iveagh Bequest has been housed at Kenwood House, a neoclassical villa in London. With Kenwood under renovation, this collection is traveling outside of the United Kingdom for the first time. The exhibition continues through January 13th.
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