Sir John Soane's museum to host explorations of the life and work of Mrs Mary Delany

By Culture24 Staff | 22 January 2010
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a photograph of a black piece of fabric embroidered with flowers

Embroidered Skirt Panel by Mrs Delany. Courtesy Sir John Soane's Museum

Exhibition Preview: Mrs Delaney and her Circle / Promiscuous Assemblage, Friendship &The Order of Things, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, February 19 - May 1 2010.

Sir John Soane’s Museum will be taking an in-depth look at the life and work of eighteenth century Bluestocking Mrs Mary Delany with an exhibition and complimentary art installation by Jane Wildgoose.

Mrs Delany and her Circle explores the exquisite embroidery, botanical collages, drawings and garden designs of Mary Delany who was at the centre of artistic, literary, fashionable and political life in 18th century England and Ireland.

a photograph of a black piece of paper decorated with a paper collage of a plant

Sweet Pea collage by Mrs Delany. Courtesy Sir John Soane's Museum

She numbered Handel, Swift, Pope and Walpole among her friends and was described by Edmund Burke as a woman of fashion for all ages.

Best Known for her detailed botanical collages, which she called "paper mosaicks", the exhibition will explore the intersection of the worlds she inhabited and will draw upon a wide range of handcrafted items including textiles, landscape drawings, manuscripts and of course the paper cuts and collages.

a photograph of a cabinet filled with a variety of curiosities

Promiscuos Assemblage by Jane Wildgoose. Courtesy Sir John Soane's Museum

Her embroidery and mosaicks will be shown in the context of the natural history discoveries that informed much of her work to reveal how she successfully married the 18th century pursuit of science with female accomplishment.

To complement the exhibition the Soane will be playing host to Jane Wildgoose's extraordinary cabinet of curiosities cum art installation, Promiscuous Assemblage, Friendship & Other Things.

a photograph of a cabinet filled with a variety of curiosities

Promiscuos Assemblage by Jane Wildgoose. Courtesy Sir John Soane's Museum

Wildgoose’s extravagant assemblage is a celebration of the enduring and productive friendship between Delany and Margaret Cavendish, second Duchess of Portland and evokes the ‘Promiscuous Assemblage’ described in the catalogue which accompanied the sale of the Duchess’ Portland Museum, which was compiled by the botanist John Lightfoot.

The Sir John Soane's Museum itself is an intricate cabinet of curiosities that offers an intimate portrait of its ingenious creator and Wildgoose's aim has been to strike a balance between the themes of her own installation and Soane’s approach to collecting and furnishing.

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