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Lectures & Workshops

Please use the bar on the right-hand side of the booking calendar below to see the full list of lectures programmed for each month.


Presented by well-known art, social and cultural historians, the ART OF INDIA study series will explore the artistic, social and cultural worlds where objects, interiors and design meet.

The lectures and events will consider how historical contemporary ideas connect and convey meanings that celebrate culture in the making. 

CLOTHED IN THE EXOTIC | India’s Influence on European Fashion with Sophia Errey
Wednesday 14 March 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am SOLD OUT!

From the 16th century to the present European fashion has used the astonishingly rich and varied fabrics and personal adornments of the sub-continent to inspire, incorporate and exploit. We will look at examples of the remarkable development of Indian textiles and jewellery, and the ongoing traffic with the West, which has changed the way we dress.

SOPHIA ERREY is an artist, art educator and writer. She is continuing to research historical and ethnic influences on fashion, the topic of her PhD. Her most recent lecture at The Johnston Collection was The Lion, the Lamb and the Watchamacallit.

Peignoir, circa 1812-14 Indian ikat dyed muslin, garment made in Great Britain collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, T.798-1913, given by Messrs Harrods Ltd | image supplied and used with permission

IMAGINING INDIA: Queen Victoria's Durbar Room at Osborne House, Isle of Wight with Susan Scollay 
Wednesday 11 April 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am SOLD OUT!

In 1890, Queen Victoria added a luxurious, Indian-themed room to her favourite summer retreat at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. The Durbar Room, as it was known, housed the monarch’s extensive private collection of Indian art, displayed in glass cabinets set amongst grand mahogany furniture and magnificent hand-made carpets, made in Agra in the Persian manner. The Durbar Room and other parts of Osborne House have recently been re-opened to the public after featuring in the 2017 film, Victoria & Abdul.

DR SUSAN SCOLLAY is an independent art historian specialising in Islamic art and culture and in historic textiles. She is a contributing editor to HALI, the prestigious, London-based journal of carpet, textile and Islamic art, and is a fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain. Susan has lectured at The Johnston Collection since 2008 and in 2010 was guest curator of FLUID BORDERS: Ways of Seeing Oriental Rugs.

detail of The Durbar Room (1890-92), Osborne House, England which Queen Victoria commissioned the design from John Lockwood Kipling in 1890

Thursday 3 May 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

In 1600 Queen Elizabeth I gave the East India Company a royal charter to trade with Asia. The London-based Company served the merchants; but it was also a mini-state with power to fight, issue regulations and make treaties with foreign powers. When the rule of the East India Company was moved to the Crown in 1858, how British was the Raj? A few thousand Brit colonials ruling over millions of Indians in administrative, military and commercial empires. A battle for Indian independence was inevitable.

HELEN WEBBERLEY has a BA (Melbourne University) and a Masters (Monash), specialising in History and Art History. She is a lecturer on art, architecture and history focusing on the pivotal 17th century to 1939, especially on Britain, the Continent, the Middle East, North Africa, Australia and North America.

image: detail from in the style of Francis Grant, England untitled (portrait of a Military Officer in an Indian Landscape), circa 1840-1860 oil on canvas on board | 530 x 360 mm The Johnston Collection (A0953-1989, Foundation Collection)


A JEWEL IN THE CROWN | The Indian influence on early 20th century jewellery with Adrian Dickens
Tuesday 15 May 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am SOLD OUT!

Ever since Koh-i-Nûr (or ‘Mountain of Light’) diamond was presented to Queen Victoria in 1849 by an eleven-year-old Indian prince Duleep Singh, Indian jewels and jewellery have consumed the imagination. This desire for splendid displays continues and includes the wonderfully juicy “Tutti Fruitti” style created by the great French jewellers Cartier. 

Join Adrian Dickens as he discusses some of the world’s most magnificent jewels set with historical Indian gems. Originally owned by maharajas and maharani, including the scandalous “Wallis Simpson of India”, these treasures were re-incarnated to adorn European royalty, aristocrats and socialites of the 1920s and 30s. These masterpieces are from an era of style and unsurpassed Deco-dence. 

This lecture will illustrate some of the rarest gems set in the finest jewels ever created and touch on many items that will be featured in the Cartier: The Exhibition being held the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra from March to July 2018.

ADRIAN DICKENS trained in the United Kingdom for six years and has been a fixture on the Melbourne and Sydney fine jewellery scene for over 30 years. Adrian’s knowledge of historical and recent jewellery trends are insightful.  He regularly gives talks and presentations nationally and internationally. He has managed some of Australia’s fine jewellery houses and now runs Circa AD Jewels. This is the seventh talk in the Adrian Dickens series, the most recent being ANIMAL MENAGERIE | Animals in Jewellery in 2017.

Image: Queen Alexandra at her Coronation, 1902, wearing the Crown of Queen Alexandra set with Koh-i-Nûr diamond

THE TIGER AND THE LION: Looted objects in British collections from the court of Tipu Sultan of Mysore (d. 1799) with Kate Brittlebank
Wednesday 16 May 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

"Tippoo's Tiger" was made for Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore in South India; the British looted it from his capital Srirangapattana (Seringapatam) after its fall in 1799. The wooden semi-automaton tiger was sent to London and is now housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum. 

This illustrated lecture will discuss “Tippoo’s Tiger" and other items brought home from Mysore, including - from Tipu’s throne – the Royal Collection’s life-size gold tiger head with crystal teeth.

KATE BRITTLEBANK, formerly Senior Lecturer in Asian History at the University of Tasmania, has written extensively on Tipu Sultan's reign and death. Dr Brittlebank's publications include Tipu Sultan's Search for Legitimacy: Islam and Kingship in a Hindu Domain (1997) and Tiger: The Life of Tipu Sultan (2016).

image: maker unknown Tippoo's Tiger (Mechanical organ), Mysore, India, circa 1793  painted wood with metal fixtures collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2545(IS))


LUXURY THREADS is a series of three illustrated lectures which offers an overview of the key role of luxury textiles and costume in promoting status and power during the early modern era (late-15th late 18th centuries). 

We welcome back Susan Scollay and introduce Catherine Kovesi to consider the significance of luxury and splendour, with particular reference to royal courts in Europe and beyond, and particularly in the elite society of the republic of Venice which was a key centre for the production, distribution and consumption of magnificent cloth and clothing.

CLOTHING & CLOUT | The meaning and role of textiles in Renaissance Venice with Catherine Kovesi
Wednesday 21 March 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am SOLD OUT!

The merchant nobles of Renaissance Venice kept astute eyes on their family account books. And yet they could spend an astonishing forty per cent of the household income on clothing, with the robes for the esteemed position of city Procurator costing the equivalent of a year’s salary. This lecture explores the value and meaning of cloth and clothing in the lives of elite Venetian consumers, and the vestimentary codes in operation more broadly in this premier trading city of the early modern world.

Dr CATHERINE KOVESI is an historian of Early Modern Italy at the University of Melbourne. She has published widely on Italy’s role in the origins of modern consumer society, and is the general editor of Bloomsbury’s forthcoming six-volume Cultural History of Luxury. She has an intimate knowledge of the city of Venice, to which she brings students and alumni of the University of Melbourne for focused periods of study. 

Paolo Caliari known as Paolo Véronèse (Italian, 1528-1588) The Marriage at Cana (detail), 1563 oil on canvas | 6.77 m x 9.94 m collection of Musée du Louvre (1798.142), Paris, Public Domain

TUDOR TEXTILES: from Henry VIII (r. 1509–1547) to Elizabeth I (r. 1558–1603) with Susan Scollay
Wednesday 28 March 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am SOLD OUT!

Tudor palaces were furnished with and brought to life by luxurious textiles. Cloths of gold, embroidered silk drapes, large-scale tapestries and richly-coloured Ottoman carpets were key components of palace interiors. As well, court fashion communicated unprecedented prestige and power through layers of silks, satins and velvets. This lecture examines fabrics of the era produced in England and also textiles from Italy and the Ottoman empire supplied to the Tudor court by Venetian merchants.

DR SUSAN SCOLLAY is an independent art historian specialising in Islamic art and culture and in historic textiles. She is a contributing editor to HALI, the prestigious, London-based journal of carpet, textile and Islamic art, and is a fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain. Susan has lectured at The Johnston Collection since 2008 and in 2010 was guest curator of FLUID BORDERS: Ways of Seeing Oriental Rugs.

English school The 'Hardwick Hall' portrait of Elizabeth 1 (1533–1603), circa 1592 - 1598 – 1599) oil on canvas, 2235 x 1689 mm  collection of the National Trust (NT1129128), Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, United Kingdom

SILKS AT THE SERAGLIO: How Süleyman I (r. 1520–1566) created ‘magnificence’ at the Ottoman court with Susan Scollay 
Wednesday 4 April 2018 SOLD OUT!

The era of the Ottoman sultan, Süleyman I, is generally considered to be the ‘golden age’of Ottoman art and architecture. Süleyman himself made such an impression in Europe, especially in Italy, that he was dubbed ‘Il Magnifico’, in reference to his splendid clothing and ceremonial trappings. This lecture outlines the key components of Süleyman’s ‘magnificence’ and introduces the courtiers and the concubine who helped him achieve it.

DR SUSAN SCOLLAY is an independent art historian specialising in Islamic art and culture and in historic textiles. She is a contributing editor to HALI, the prestigious, London-based journal of carpet, textile and Islamic art, and is a fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain. Susan has lectured at The Johnston Collection since 2008 and in 2010 was guest curator of FLUID BORDERS: Ways of Seeing Oriental Rugs.  

circle of Titian (1488–1576) Portrait of Süleyman the 'Magnificent' (r. 1520–1566), circa 1530 oil on canvas, 990 x 850 mm Historisches Museum Gemaldegalerie, Vienna

JONATHAN RICHARDSON: the necessity of an education in aesthetics for every gentleman with Kathleen Kiernan
Wednesday 18 April 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

This lecture examines the prominence of the virtuoso collector and connoisseur Jonathan Richardson (1667-1745), who was also a practicing artist working and negotiating in the expanding “public sphere” of the London art world. Richardson was one of the first in England to uphold the prevailing taste of Picturesque. Although his theoretical text, An Essay on the Theory of Painting, clearly defined art criticism and connoisseurship, it also provided a benchmark of taste that could be used by any art lover. It marked a broader social shift – the beginning of the breaking down of distinctions between social classes in the art market.

KATHLEEN KIERNAN completed her doctorate on 17th and 18th century British art and culture at the University of Melbourne. She has worked as a tutor in the undergraduate Art History program since 2014. Kathleen was the Harold Wright Scholar in 2007 and recipient of the Macgeorge and Alma Hansen Scholarships. She is currently writing a publication Dutch Prints in the English Landscape for Monash University Publishing.

Jonathan Richardson "the Elder" (English, 1667 – 1745) portrait of Lord Chancellor William Cowper, England, 1706 oil on canvas | (overall) 763 x 635 mm The Johnston Collection (A1259-2006, purchased with funds provided by Andrew Dixon, Melbourne)

Friday 4 May 2018 | 10.00 am - 11.30 am

The Friends First Friday Book Club is welcoming all book lovers,  both members and non-members, to join us next month over a cup of tea and a biscuit for a discussion of the biography, The Angel And The Cad.

In this fascinating book historian Geraldine Roberts recounts the tragic tale of the ‘Wiltshire heiress’, who at 15 became England’s richest woman, and the man who would destroy her.

Thursday 10 May 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

‘The Great Houses Jane Austen never lived in’ is an illustrated tour of Chatsworth (often thought to be the model for Pemberley), Chawton Great House, which her brother Edward inherited, and Stoneleigh Abbey, also inherited by a relative, as well as Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire and Knole Abbey in Kent.

JOHN WILTSHIRE is Emeritus Professor at La Trobe University. He is the author of numerous books about Jane Austen, and has edited Mansfield Park for the authoritative Cambridge edition. His most recent publications are The Cinematic Jane Austen (2009) and The Making of Dr Johnson (2009) and Hidden Jane Austen (2015). He is currently preparing a work on Frances Burney and medical experience. John has been a regular lecturer at The Johnston Collection since 2008.

Humphry Repton (English, 1752-1818) from the Red Book for Stoneleigh Abbey, 1808 watercolour on paper  collection of Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwickshire, England


The title of princess conjures up courtly grandeur, and a careful upbringing and education in preparation for life at a foreign court as the leader of the fashionable world, champion of charitable and philanthropic endeavours, and the epitome of motherhood and domestic harmony. Some of the best court painters were called upon to encapsulate these exemplary qualities in their official portraits. 

The new lecture series, developed by Dr Eugene Barilo von Reisberg exclusively for The Johnston Collection, focuses on the daughters of British, French, and Russian monarchs. The lectures will be richly illustrated with portraits which will be deployed as a nexus between the idealised public image and the reality of life behind the shutters of ivory towers. 

The lectures will be accompanied by scholarly essays in the fairhall journal, where a selection of portraits will be considered in depth. 

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German, 1805-1873) The Royal Family in 1846, 1846 oil on canvas | 2505 x 3173 mm The Royal Collection, England, RCIN 405413, Royal Collection Trust/ ©Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018 | Public Domain

Tuesday 8 May 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

George III and Queen Charlotte’s marital union was blessed with fifteen children, including six girls, who seem to have been destined to govern from the most prestigious thrones of Europe. However, the prospects of the princesses’ wedded bliss were overshadowed by their domineering mother, the illness of their father, and the political instability on the Continent. Portraits by Johan Zoffany, Benjamin West, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence, William Beechey, and other artists will guide through the complicated web of marital disappointments, lonely spinsterhoods, and illicit love affairs of the six forgotten princesses, some of whom had lived through four reigns well into the middle of the 19th century. 

Sir Thomas Lawrence RA (English, 1769-1830) Princess Sophia (1777-1848), England, 1800-24 oil on canvas | 1412 x 1119 mm The Royal Collection, England, RCIN 403420, Royal Collection Trust/ ©Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018 | Public Domain

Tuesday 22 May 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

King Louis XV of France, and his wife, Queen Marie Leszczyńska, were blessed with ten children, including eight girls. The hand in marriage of a French royal princess was eagerly sought after by the Catholic courts of Europe, while Queen Marie’s Polish origins promised an injection of fresh blood into the increasingly shallow gene pool of the closely interrelated Bourbon and Hapsburg dynasties. However, and not too dissimilarly to their British counterparts, the promising destinies of the eight daughters were altered irrevocably by their mother’s intense piety, court intrigues, and acrimonious relationships with the King’s mistresses. Though some of the girls lived long enough to witness (and survive) the French Revolution, they are largely forgotten today—save for the fine portraits painted of them by Jean-Marc Nattier, François-Hubert Drouais, and Adélaïde Labille-Guiard.

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (French, 1749-1803  Marie Adélaïde of France (1732–1800), 1787 oil on canvas, 2783 x 1940 mm Musée National du Château Versailles (MV 3958)

NOTE: Two further lectures in the series, The Five Daughters of Queen Victoria (Tuesday 7 August 2018) and OTMA: The Four Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra (Tuesday 21 August 2018) will be presented during the Spring Lecture Season.

Dr Eugene Barilo von Reisberg is a Melbourne-based scholar and art adviser, who shares his passion for art, history, and culture from the eighteenth century to the present day through regular lectures and publications. He has completed a doctoral dissertation on Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873), the 19th century elite portrait specialist, and is currently working towards a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s works.

JANE AUSTEN & CATHARINE MACAULAY | A story of disinheritance, where the Austens get the goods with Karen Green
Thursday 14 June 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

In this illustrated lecture Karen Green will talk about the rarely noticed family relationships that connect the famous republican historian, Catharine Macaulay, (born Catharine Sawbridge) with the Austen and Knight families. 

Tracing the marriage relationships between these families, she shows how Macaulay’s cousins were disinherited by the Knights’ decision to make Edward Austen their heir, revealing a complex web of overlooked inter-connections worthy of an Austen novel.

Karen Green is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. She has published numerous articles and books, including A History of Women’s Political Thought in Europe, 1700–1800 (Cambridge, 2014), A History of Women’s Political Thought in Europe, 1400–1700 (with Jacqueline Broad, Cambridge, 2009), and The Woman of Reason: Feminism, Humanism and Political Thought (Continuum, 1995). She is currently editing Catharine Macaulay’s correspondence for Oxford University Press. This will be her first lecture at The Johnston Collection.

image: engraved by Marais le Jeune [Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune, (French, 1741–1814]
from the frontispiece of Histoire de l'Angleterre
[portrait of] Catharine (née Sawbridge) Macaulay, (1731-1791), late 18th century
stipple engraving on paper | paper size 187 mm x 119 mm (7 ⅜ in. x 4 ⅝ in.) 
image courtesy of the speaker

GARDENS ON THE EDGE: A journey through Australian landscapes with Christine Reid
Wednesday 17 October 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

In its images Gardens on the Edge is as much about the diversity and character of the Australian continent as it is about the gardens. Its accompanying stories not only explore the establishment of the garden, but also reference Australian history and geography, and cover issues ranging from dealing with droughts and climate change to restoring a long-neglected kitchen garden.

Join internationally respected gardening author Christine Reid as she discusses the newly published Gardens on the Edge. Together with images by renowned photographer Simon Griffiths, Reid focuses on 18 stunning gardens from around Australia situated on a natural 'frontier'-rainforest, desert, bushland, saltbush plains, a volcanic crater, the ocean's edge, a harbour. The featured gardens have been created or restored in locations where the surrounding natural landscape is as significant as the cultivated and designed elements. 

Christine Reid is an Australian garden writer whose interests include the social and cultural history of gardens and designed landscapes, both historic and contemporary. She writes for a wide range of Australian and international publications, including Gardens Illustrated in the UK. Christine has contributed to books including The Gardener’s Garden (Phaidon, 2014) and The Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens (Oxford University Press, 2002) and wrote the Australian entries for the revised edition of The Oxford Companion to Gardens (Oxford University Press, 2006). Christine Reid initiated the ‘Out of India’ study series of lectures held at The Johnston Collection in 2014.

Image supplied by Simon Griffiths