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Walpole, Catholicism, and the Visual Arts

7th November 2017, 18:15 to 19:15, Elvet Riverside Room 141
Tercentenary Lectures: Horace Walpole and His Legacies
Discover how Horace Walpole brought Catholic culture back into fashion in Britain, in this public lecture. Join the conversation via #WalpoleLegacies.

Walpole spent a great deal of his life engaging with Catholic culture in one way or another: collecting, and writing admiringly about, Catholic art; using Gothic ornament so extensively at Strawberry Hill and in his friendship with Roman Catholics, such as the Duchess of Norfolk. And yet, Walpole was very clearly not a crypto-Catholic. He sounded his antipathy to the church and its teachings frequently, and often stridently.

His position may therefore seem a little paradoxical, perhaps even perverse, but it was not. In this paper, I will focus on Walpole’s writings about art, in order, I hope, to shed further light on Walpole’s understanding of history, and, in particular, the Reformation, as well as his antiquarian connoisseurship.

Image credit: An allegorical washed drawing of Chirstina of Pisa, writing her Cité des Dames. Reproduced courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

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