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‘My galleries ware fayer; both large and long […] My gardens sweet, enclosed with walles strong […]’: Exploring the Relationships between Early Modern Gardens and Art Galleries in England

Recorded on 24 June 2021

Speaker: Stephanie Bowry (University of Leicester)

This is a reprise of a paper given in Autumn 2019. It aims to provide an introduction for a visit to Ham House scheduled to take place in autumn 2021 if Covid-19 regulations permit. 

When George Cavendish (1494 – c. 1562), the servant and biographer of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (c. 1470 – 1530), wrote the verse quoted in the title of this seminar in the late 1560s he was probably not thinking about art galleries. Instead, he was likely describing the magnificence of Wolsey’s long galleries at York Place and Hampton Court Palace, spaces used for walking, entertaining and conducting business. However, the architectural and spatial relationships between gardens and galleries that Cavendish’s poem suggests were to become even more pronounced in the seventeenth century, when galleries became increasingly associated with art collections and practices of looking.
This paper considers the visual, conceptual and spatial relationships between art galleries and gardens, with a particular focus on Ham House, Richmond, a seventeenth-century courtiers’ house constructed in 1610. Now managed by the National Trust, Ham’s intricate network of interior and exterior spaces have much to tell us about the connections between gardens and galleries in the early modern era. Drawing upon archival and material cultural evidence, this seminar contends that seventeenth-century gardens and galleries were complex cultural sites which were designed to complement each other in a variety of ways and that garden history can help enrich our understanding of the many cultural influences which helped shape the emergence of museums and galleries in England and further afield. 

Dr Stephanie Bowry is a historian and museologist, specialising in the representational strategies and cultural performances of museums, galleries and gardens during the sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. She completed her PhD on the visual representation of the world in early modern curiosity cabinets and its reflection in contemporary art practice at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, in 2015. She is now a Teaching Fellow in the same department. The research on which her paper is based has been conducted as part of a three-year project, Cultivating the Art Gallery in the Early Modern Garden, generously funded by The Leverhulme Trust.

IHR Seminar SeriesHistory of Gardens and Landscapes