from the website, south facade 

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 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 which complement the architecture and the paintings both. And they did a stunning job!

Entrance Hall

A special bonus for me was the traveling exhibition of most of the Iveagh Bequest paintings in the U.S. in 2013-14, including at the Milwaukee Art Museum where I was able to visit several times.  I have written about this exhibition several times on this blog.  Click here, and click here and click here
for more on Kenwood and the traveling exhibition. Unless otherwise indicated, the pictures in this post were taken by me in August, 2014.

Typical Adam Mantelpiece in the Hall

Great Stairs

Now Kristine and I were actually here in the refurbished Kenwood House and free to enjoy it at our leisure.  And when I say free, I mean it.  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 one and all. The renovations cost about £5.95 million, so don't be surprised that they have a good-will offering suggestion!

Lord Mansfield's portrait above the fireplace in the library

The library ceiling restored

Under restoration, old on the left, new on the right, from the website


The library before the restoration of 2012-13, from old sources

The red carpeting overwhelmed the delicacy of the ceiling and wall decoration. You can also see how the colors of the ceiling were restored to their original hues. When you look at the restored version, you realize the former decor was rather gaudy, too much so for authentic Adam.

The Dining Room's Red walls are quite appropriate.
The painting above the fireplace 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

Edwin Landseer, The Hon. E. S. Russell and His Brother, 1934

Children always love this painting of the boys on their ponies with their dogs.

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; These were very popular and are found in many country houses in England.

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 Chimneypiece 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

Catalogue of the Collection

To visit the Kenwood House website, click here.

For more details on the Iveagh Bequest paintings, click here.

For more details on the Suffolk Collection, click here

To buy catalogues and see the Kenwood items in the excellent gift shop, click here.

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