Historic Royal Palaces have put on a brilliant exhibition at Hampton Court Palace of the decadence of the late Stuart court. I had a good chat with curator Brett Dolman about the exhibition and we both agreed that the Late Stuart period has been overlooked by many. He and his team did an excellent job of bringing the ambience of Charles II’s court to life. There was a bed on display, very similar to the look of the pillows and blue cloth Nell Gwynn reclined upon in the portrait below. There were costumed performers who walked about, and this added a nice extra touch – I wish more historical places used such performers as it brings history so much more to life for the visitor.
The sumptuous, sensual exhibition includes many portraits of notable Stuart beauties such as Barbara Villiers and Nell Gwynn. Some of the portraits are from the highly sensual “Windsor Beauties” which were painted by Peter Lely.
This exhibition is decidedly not for young children as it is indeed perfectly illustrates the sexual intrigues of court – how beauty could raise a woman’s worth and power.
There are some lovely objects from William and Mary’s time as well, and some portraits of the “Hampton Court Beauties” which were commissioned by Mary and painted by Godfrey Kneller, including one of Anne Bentinck, daughter of William’s favourite, Hans Bentinck and his wife Anne Villiers.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience – it was unforgettable. But if you are unable to get to see this exhibition, it is worth buying the book that accompanies it:
Beauty, Sex and Power: A Story of Debauchery and Decadent Art at the Late Stuart Court (1660-1714) by Brett Dolman: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beauty-Sex-Power-Debauchery-1660-1714/dp/1857597567/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347633729&sr=8-1