On November 15th, through the good graces of our President, Charles Sebag-Montefiore CBE, the Society was able to host the first in what will become an annual social event for members and friends in a spectacular venue, the Great Subscription Room at Brooks’s club in London’s St James’s.
We asked our members to bring friends with them to the party and we were delighted to see that many did so; we welcomed over 90 people for drinks and canapés and nearly half of those who came were not yet members of the Society.
The evening began with a welcome from the President who discussed the imposing architecture of the room which looks onto St James’s Street, built to a design by Henry Holland and completed around 1778. He told us about the portraits which decorate the room, in particular the two canvases by Joshua Reynolds (c. 1777) the Society of Dilettanti group portraits. These are magnificent visual documents of the elite social club that was so important for Grand Tour collecting and patronage. Our President is the official historian of Brooks’s and shared some of his extensive knowledge of the club and its wider art collection with us.
His speech was followed by some remarks by Clare Hornsby, the Chairwoman of the Walpole Society, with a welcome to our members and their friends. She reported some of the developments undertaken by the Society over the past year, focussing on the launch of the new website and new categories of membership including Life members and Student members, some of whom were present at the party. Finally, the Treasurer Lawrence Hendra spoke and drew the attention of everyone to the display of the Frank Salisbury drawings set up in the room by Rosebery’s, the London auction house, to be sold for the benefit of the Society. He mentioned other fundraising initiatives and reiterated the Chairwoman’s encouragement for non-members to join the Society. We were delighted at the success of the evening; feedback has been very encouraging with reports of how happy members were to finally meet each other at an exciting time for the Society. We are already looking forward to next year’s event.