Past Exhibitions

Mrs Delany and Her Circle

An exhibition in the Soane Gallery from 19 February - 1 May 2010

Mary Delany, Portlandia Grandiflora, 1782, collage of coloured papers with watercolour and body colour on black ink background, © The Trustees of the British Museum

Mrs. Delany, née Mary Granville (1700-1788), was a significant figure in the practice of natural history in Georgian England and, in the words of Edmund Burke, "the woman of fashion of all ages." During her long life she was a pattern of accomplishment and curiosity for her contemporaries and became a model to subsequent generations.

Drawing upon works from Private collections, the Royal Collection and public institutions such as the British Museum, Natural History Museum, British Library and the National Gallery of Ireland, the exhibtion will be the first to survey her entire life and to essay the full range of Mrs. Delany's creative endeavors. It will bring together art, fashion, and science: fields that are now generally conceived as separate realms of cultural practice, but that were intimately connected in the varied circles in which Mrs. Delany thrived. The centre pieces of the show will include sections of Delany's court mantua, the court dress magnificently embroidered with naturalistic flowers dramatically displayed against a black satin background, which she wore to a ball in the early 1740s. This exhibition is the first time that these surviving sections fabric have been brought together. Other notable loans include her 'paper mosaic' botanical studies of flowers, part of her magnum opus the Flora Delanica, which were so admired by Horace Walpole and which are on loan from the Bristh Museum.

This exhibition, organised by Sir John Soane's Musuem and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, is accompanied by a major publication Mary Delany and her Circle published by the Soane and the Yale Center for British Art.