Thursday, 15 July 2010

Margaret Duchess of Portland and her Collection of Curiosities

Margaret Cavendish was born into a family of devoted collectors, her mother obsessively collected china and proudly displayed it all over her house. Her father was a keen book collector as well as being a patron of the arts. Margaret piked up on her mothers interest of collecting china and had her own collection that did not fail to impress King George III and Queen Charlotte when they visited the Duchess house in 1778  (she especially loved Chinese porcelain). However her most profound interest lay in collecting shells, ores, fossils, birds eggs, nests, insects, sculpture, coins and medals. She also collected some art works and drawings and she obviously inherited a huge collection of art from her father and grandfather who was once again a great collector. A lot of her collection was housed in the Portland museum which included  collection around 40.000 objects. Her museum was world famous and was known to house the largest collection of sea shells in the whole Europe. She was a good friend and a patron of Captain Cook and asked him to bring her the most interesting looking shells and other objects from his many voyages abroad. Captain Cook was not the only one who supplied whom she asked to collect objects for her collected from all over the world, she also employed sailors, naturalist and travellers so she could constantly add to her huge collection.
She also loved vases and had a huge collection of them including the famous ancient Roman glass vessel which is now known as Portland vase. She bought it from Sir William Hamilton a known collector himself and the husband of the famous beauty Emma Hamilton.
Sadly Portland Museum no longer exists it seems that at the end of her life her children found themselves in huge debts and being such a good mother she sacrificed her own collection by putting it on sale.


  1. I went to a contemporary art fair in Shanghai recently, which was a real eye-opener. Chinese contemporary art has come leaps and bounds from the watery Zen landscapes to huge canvases of strange-looking beings. The prices being asked and paid were huge too.
    Oriental, if not Chinese, my print of Jean-Léon Gérôme's painting,, bought some time ago from, is as lovely as ever.

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