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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.

THE GREAT DIXTER COOKBOOK |  Recipes from an English Garden with Aaron Bertelsen
Tuesday 13 February 2018 10.00 am - 11.30 am & 2.00 pm - 3.30 pm



Englishman Christopher Lloyd's home, the historic house Great Dixter is the backdrop to his quintessential country garden. Located on the borders of Kent and Sussex, Great Dixter was the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd – it was the focus of his energy and enthusiasm and fuelled over 40 years of books and articles.

Now, its seasonal garden provides the inspiration for The Great Dixter Cookbook which features a number of recipes taken from the Lloyd family's personal kitchen notebooks. 

Join author Aaron Bertelsen, who has lived at Great Dixter for over 16 years, and now looks after the house as well as taking care of the vegetable garden, cooking and hosting. Bertelsen provides warmth and welcome hospitality when the late Christopher Lloyd’s friends visit and his accessible bookThe Great Dixter Cookbook  enriches the kitchens and lives of home cooks and gardeners worldwide.

Aaron Bertelsen arrived in England to volunteer in the garden at Great Dixter in 1996. He subsequently studied for a Diploma in Horticulture at Kew Gardens, and spent two years at Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Israel, where he is still a trustee. Aaron returned to Great Dixter in 2005 and became the vegetable gardener and cook in 2007. Bertelsen is regularly invited to speak about gardening at events worldwide. His first book The Great Dixter Cookbook has received international acclaim since its publication in March 2017.

REIGNING MEN | a world in men’s fashion with Peter McNeil
Tuesday 20 February 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am SOLD OUT!

REIGNING MEN is the largest exhibition of men’s fashion ever assembled and it traces a new story of men’s dress from 1730 to the present day. Join Reigning Men’s writer, Peter McNeil, for a look behind the scenes at the beauty and surprise of men and their fashions. From West Indies transparent cotton suits of the 18th century to genderless clothing of the 1960s, the lecture reveals a history of men in fashion and fashion in men. Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015, the exhibition, comes from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to MAAS, Sydney from May 2018 – October 2018.
PETER McNEIL is Distinguished Professor of Design History at the University of Technology Sydney and Distinguished Professor, Aalto University, Finland. He is the author of numerous publications including many works on fashion, including the best-selling Shoes, also translated into Italian (with Giorgio Riello 2006; 2011). McNeil was a contributing writer to the catalogue of Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015 held at Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2016. His new book entitled Pretty Gentlemen: Macaroni Men and the Eighteenth-Century Fashion World is forthcoming with Yale University Press in 2018.

Tail Coat, United States of America, circa 1825 Linen plain weavecollection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (AC1992.17.3), Costume Council Curatorial Discretionary Fund

Wednesday 21 February 2018 – 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm SOLD OUT!

Join Caroline Jane Knight, fifth great niece of Jane Austen and author of “Jane & Me”, to be introduced by John Wiltshire, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University.

This event is supported by the Friends of The Johnston Collection

image: detail, cover Jane & Me: My Austen Heritage by Caroline Jane Knight published by The Greyfriar Group 2017 

TRADING THE WORD | Gutenberg Bibles and English Libraries with Shane Carmody
Tuesday 27 February 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am SOLD OUT!

In this lecture Shane Carmody will tell the stories of the seven Gutenberg Bibles in English Libraries and some that got away.  The first book printed with moveable type in Europe, Gutenberg’s bible was a major turning point from the medieval to the modern world, and brought a technology that spread knowledge, controversy, and ultimately revolution.  The stories of these bibles reflect this cultural shift as well as the rise of book collecting, the often eccentric collectors, and the trade which supports it.

SHANE CARMODY is a historian with a great love of Libraries and Archives.  He has worked for the National Archives as State Director for Victoria, the State Library of Victoria as Director Collections and Access and is currently at the University of Melbourne Library as Senior Development Manager.

He is widely published on the history of Libraries and collections.  Shane has managed major international exhibitions including THE MEDIEVAL IMAGINATION: Illuminated Manuscripts from Cambridge, Australia and New Zealand (State Library of Victoria 2008) and LOVE AND DEVOTION: From Persia and beyond (State Library of Victoria 2012). Shane Carmody’s most recent lecture at the Collection was MORE ENGLISH THAN THE ENGLISH: 3 Treasure House Libraries (2017). Each year he leads a tour of the Great Libraries of England with Australians Studying Abroad.

image: Gutenberg Bible, circa 1454-1455, Lambeth Palace Library, London, MS15f119v


Arts Program Series 2018 | 1 – 18 March 2018 

We are delighted to be a participant in the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival Arts Program Series 2018 with three special lectures at The Johnston Collection.

The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival is an annual celebration of fashion, arts, ideas and creative endeavour for everyone to enjoy.

The Festival presents the country’s largest consumer fashion event including world-class runway shows featuring Australia’s established and emerging designers, state-of-the-art production, beauty workshops, retail events, industry seminars, forums, live entertainment and much more.

A SMART NEW LIFE | Emigration, dress and Australian colonial society, 1820s – 1860s with Laura Jocic
Tuesday 6 March 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am SOLD OUT!

Australia was generally reckoned as a country where, for much of the nineteenth century, there was little need for fashionable dress. As late as 1853, with the onset of the gold rush, The Emigrant's Guide to Australia continued to urge prospective emigrants to pack only the most useful and durable items of clothing. 

With the steady influx of free settlers from the 1820s onwards, diaries, letters and surviving items of dress paint a different picture of colonial society, one which was often criticised for being preoccupied with fashion. Drapers, tailors and dressmakers advertised the latest goods and styles from overseas, while newly arrived emigrants found a society where the regular round of social activities required a range of appropriate dress. 

This lecture will consider the nature of colonial society and the emigrant's experience through the lens of dress. What did people bring with them to start a new life in Australia and how did this match with what they found on arrival? 

LAURA JOCIC is undertaking a PhD at the University of Melbourne, researching dress and its role in Australian colonial society. She was formerly a curator in the department of Australian Fashion and Textiles at the National Gallery of Victoria where she curated a number of exhibitions including AUSTRALIAN MADE: 100 Years of Fashion. In 2016 Laura curated the exhibition LOUIS KAHAN: art, theatre, fashion for the Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn. Her most recent lecture at The Johnston Collection was DRESSING FOR THE CAMERA: photography and the colonial portrait (2017).

image: Wedding dress, grey silk, worn by Janet Fleming (nee Robertson), Scotland, circa 1830-1840s collection of Museum Victoria, SH 991000, used with permission

Thursday 8 March 2018 | 2.00 pm to 3.30 pm SOLD OUT!

In Jane Austen’s time, a woman was considered a “success”, if she made a good marriage. So from the time a young lady came out into society, attending balls, assemblies and other social engagements – occasions which provided an opportunity to attract and be introduced to prospective suitors - what she wore was of the utmost importance. 

“The first bliss of a ball, was dressing for it” wrote Jane in her novel The Watsons, but there were also many rules of conduct in dress to be adhered to whilst indulging in the latest fashions. Sleeve length, glove length, silk or muslin? To reveal or conceal one’s shoulders or neck? How much ankle was too much? Not to mention one’s bosom! So many things to consider in the business of dressing for success. 

Based on excerpts from both Jane’s letters and novels with various opinions of the day, here is the chance to discover just what it was like to dress for a ball in Regency England.

LISE RODGERS is an accomplished Melbourne actress whose career has spanned stage, screen and radio. Widely known for her ongoing Jane Austen series of performances, it is her passion for the Spoken Word that inspires her series of performed readings.

image: Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA FRS (English, 1769 – 1830), Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington (1789—1849), in 1822, Wallace Collection, London | Public Domain


DRESSING DEMPSEY’S PEOPLE | Fashion from the street
Thursday 15 March 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

In this lecture fashion historian Hilary Davidson explores the significance of the fraying collars, patched coats, and ill-fitting shoes of English painter John Dempsey’s people, in the context of early 19th century clothing.

Travelling throughout the English in search of subjects, little-known portraitist John Dempsey made enchanting watercolour images of street people in the first half of the 19th century.

Dempsey's personalities provide a rare insight into the individuals who populated small towns across Britain. There are bellmen and beggars; hawkers and match-sellers; old soldiers, poets, eccentrics; and the physically and mentally disabled. Dempsey’s works and travels, in a time of limited transportation, also mark the eventual downturn in the fortunes of travelling painters with the emergence of photography.

Remarkable in their incisive realism and provide a fresh perspective and rare visual documentation of people otherwise overlooked by history, Dempsey’s portraits bring to life the fictional worlds of writers like Charles Dickens, presenting a vivid and distinctive survey of street people in British cities and towns. In doing so, Dempsey provided a rare insight into the clothing that does not survive in museums, that slips through the cracks, that in its day was resold, remade, and recycled until there was nothing left.

HILARY DAVIDSON is a dress and textile historian who was formerly curator of fashion and decorative art at the Museum of London. She has researched Austen-age fashion for a decade and is currently completing a major book on dress in the British Regency world for Yale (2018). Her most recent lecture at The Johnston Collection was Reconstructing Jane Austen’s Silk Pelisse (2017).

image: John Dempsey (English, 1801-1877), Black Charley, Norwich, 1823, collection of Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, presented by C. Docker, 1956


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


Times of immense social and political change require new visual images to encapsulate ideals and translate them into a form that could at the same time codify and re-enforce their message. 

This series of three lectures will study the new subject matter of painting created during the formation of the Dutch Republic in 1581, the era of the French Revolution of 1789 and the rise of the Parisian bourgeoisie during the Second Empire from 1851. Religious art was no longer capable of depicting emerging ideas about civic and private virtue.

SYLVIA SAGONA is an internationally recognised specialist on 19th century French society. She retired from the French Department at The University of Melbourne to work on historical documentaries for French and Australian television and is currently researching a film on the invention of the restaurant in Paris in the 18th century.

Johannes Vermeer, Woman Reading a Letter, circa 1663–64, oil on canvas, 496 x 403 mm. (18 5/16” x 15 3/8”) collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (SK-C-251) on loan from the City of Amsterdam (A. van der Hoop Bequest), Public domain

Tuesday 10 April 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am 

The Dutch Golden Age, which roughly spanned the 17th century, saw Dutch art, trade, science and military prowess rise to its highest peak despite, or because of, the ongoing struggle between Catholic and Protestant world views. A fascination with all aspects of the tangible contemporary world led artists to record intimate domestic settings and civic activities and raise them to the level of icons of a perfect world.

Pieter de Hooch (Dutch, 1629-1684), The Bedroom, 1658-1660, oil on canvas | 510 x 600 mm (20 1/16 x 23 5/8 in.), collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington (1942.9.33), Widener Collection, Public Domain

THE VIRTUOUS CITIZEN | From Robespierre to Bonaparte
Tuesday 17 April 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am 

The French Revolution of 1789 overthrew not just the church and aristocracy but also all traditional ideas of time, place and measurement.  The new citizens used imagery from the Roman Republic to encapsulate their new civic rights and responsibilities. However, it would be the rising star of the Republican army, Napoleon Bonaparte who would seize the day with a new type of personal propaganda painting.

Jacques-Louis David (French, 1748-1825), The Oath of the Horatii (Le Serment des Horaces), 1784, oil on canvas, 3.30 x 4.25 m (10' 10" x 13' 11”), collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris, Public Domain

FRAGILE & INNOCENT | Images of virtuous femininity
Tuesday 1 May 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

The glamorous centre of the Paris of Napoleon III was constructed as a theatre for the new rich class of bourgeoisie to exhibit their wealth and power. As fortunes were made and lost in often shady deals, their wives carried the burden of exhibiting virtue and purity. Artists of the time portray them in sheltered interiors pursuing mindless occupations much like the children or pets that surrounded them. Ignorance is bliss

James Tissot (French, 1836-1902), The Convalescent, circa 1875-1880, oil on canvas | 116.6 x 93.3 cm, collection of Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust, Sheffield, England, 2213, Public Domain

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)

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.