currently crushing on… the treasures of kenwood house (or, how we fell for joshua reynolds)


Seattle’s weather forecast for the weekend is looking pretty bleak, huh? If you’re searching for an indoor activity besides watching the Academy Awards, look no further than the SAM. The Treasure of the Kenwood House exhibit features 48 pieces from Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough and their contemporaries.

We dedicated our Thursday afternoon to perusing the collection and were pleasantly surprised by our connections to some of the paintings. And what struck us might not be what you expect… Of course the main attraction is the famous Rembrandt self portrait, and this is already enough to make it worth the ticket, but we also found ourselves intrigued by more intimate, less well-known pieces. For instance, don’t overlook the portraits of scandalous social climbers Kitty Fisher and Emma Hart, whose angelic faces hide some of the most extravagant lives. Lindsay Lohan’s got nothing on these ladies!

Sir Joshua Reynolds‘ portrayal of one of the most notorious British courtesans (high-class prostitute) of the 18th century, Kitty Fisher as “Cleopatra” dissolving the pearl, piqued our curiosity about the “impertinent” woman who apparently wore “diamonds worth five hundred thousand francs”. Emma Hart, another one of Joshua Reynolds’ “good friends”, also captured our attention. But it wasn’t a Reynolds portrait of her, rather George Romney’s Spinstress (mistress?) that was featured. One would never guess that such a genuinely beautiful and inviting woman had such a turbulent life. From the slums of London, she gradually climbed the social ladder to become one of the most acclaimed European muses, before ending quite miserably, alone and destitute.


From Kenwood House, London, to the SAM…
Photos by Flickr users canonsnapper (left) and Antonio Campoy Ederra (right).

But it was not only the women who provided a bit of intrigue. Man in Prince of Wales Livery from Joshua Reynolds (who else?), initially thought by art experts to be the Prince of Wales himself turned out to be a mere gentleman in royal livery attire. We could not help but wonder who commanded this to be done. Only people from a certain social rank could afford such honors. Perhaps a mysterious wealthy woman commissioned a portrait of her lover? Or was he the secret child of a member of the royal family? We let our imagination run wild in the SAM Taste Café

If you’re not really into classical European art but still want to explore the art scene, we highly recommend the Tony Taj gallery just across the street. You will discover a local artist combining traditional and digital media with lots of flair.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Bee & Em.


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