Handel’s Dressing Room – Furniture & Artwork


Title: Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington
Artist: John Faber after Sir Godfrey Kneller
Medium: Mezzotint engraving
Date: 1734
Collection: Handel House Trust

Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694-1753), was a gentleman architect who was one of the originators of the Neo-Palladian architectural style of the 18th century.  He was also a great patron of the visual arts, music and literature, earning him the title of ‘The Apollo of the Arts’. Handel stayed at his London residence, Burlington House (now the Royal Academy of Arts) between c.1714 and 1717 along with the poets Alexander Pope and John Gay. It was here and through Burlington, that Handel made an enviable network of contacts from nobility to artistic collaborators that became integral to his career in London.


Title: The Right Hon. James Earl of Carnarvon, Duke of Chandos
Artist: J. Simon after Michael Dahl
Medium: Mezzotint Engraving
Date: unknown
Collection: Handel House Trust

James Brydges (1673-1744) was a landowner and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1698 until 1714. He was created Earl of Canarvon, and then the first Duke of Chandos in 1719. Handel was employed by Chandos at Cannons, Chandos’s large home in Middlesex, for at least 2 years, 1717-18. During his time at Cannons, Handel composed the oratorio Esther, the pastoral Acis and Galatea and the Chandos Anthems for the Duke.

Top left:

Title: Johann Christopher Pepusch
Artist: Alexander Van Aken after Thomas Hudson
Medium: Mezzotint engraving
Date: 1735
Collection: Handel House Trust

The German composer, Johann Christopher Pepusch (1667-1752), came to London in the early 1700s and, like Handel, stayed for the remainder of his life. Pepusch played the viola and harpsichord in the Drury Lane orchestra and was organist and composer to the Duke of Chandos, also a patron of Handel. Pepusch arranged the music for John Gay’s controversial production of The Beggar’s Opera even though he was primarily an instrumental composer. The Beggar’s Opera was a ballard opera that satirised Italian opera and was made up of recognisable tunes from operas by Handel and others, rearranged by Pepusch. Also an expert in Greek music, Pepusch helped found the Academy of Ancient Music to investigate early European composition.

Bottom left:

Title: Dr Thomas Arne
Artist: After Francesco Bartolozzi
Medium: Engraving
Date: 1782
Collection: Private Collection

Thomas Arne (1710-78) was one of the leading English composers of his generation and is perhaps best known for the patriotic masque, Alfred (1740) with its rousing finale, ‘Rule, Brittania!’ Handel’s biographer, Sir John Hawkins, described Arne as having “always regarded Handel as tyrant and usurper, against whom he frequently rebelled.” Arne’s attempt to run a series of English operas (including, ironically, works by Handel and his protégé JC Smith) proved a costly failure. Arne’s sister, Susanna Cibber, sang for Handel.

Top right:

Title: Giovanni Bonnocini
Artist: J. Sympson after unknown
Medium: Mezzotint engraving
Date: unknown
Collection: Handel House Trust

Bononcini (1670-1747) was an Italian composer. He studied composition and cello and his first work was published when he was just 15. After spending many years working in Italy he was invited to London in 1720. He immediately rivalled Handel in popularity and the two composers became the subject of several satirical publications including an epigraph by John Byrom in which they are referred to as ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’, a phrase that is still famous today. Eventually, Handel won the competition and Bononcini travelled back to Europe after being charged with plagiarism in London. Apart from a large output of operas, oratorios and other dramatic works, he also composed madrigals, motets and psalms as well as instrumental works.

Bottom right:

Title: Dr Charles Burney
Artist: Franceso Bartolozzi after Sir Joshua Reynolds
Medium: Stipple engraving
Date: Unknown
Collection: Handel House Trust

Dr Charles Burney (1726-1814) was a composer, performer and musicologist, and the father of novelist Fanny Burney. As a young man Burney was apprenticed to Thomas Arne and played in the orchestra under Handel in productions of Hercules and Belshazzar. He was given the position of official historian of the ‘Handel Commemoration of 1784’ and was author of a publication to accompany the event. As a composer, Burney was rather mediocre and his productions were not warmly received. His greatest success came as a musical writer. He travelled around Europe writing about the musical life of the countries he passed through. These publications brought him considerable success, making his home a popular gathering place for the cultured. Burney was also an amateur astronomer and a friend of Samuel Johnson.

Title: Rich’s Glory or his Triumphant Entry into Covent-Garden
Artist: Unknown
Medium: Engraving
Date: 1732
Collection: Handel House Trust

The Covent Garden Theatre opened in 1732 under the management of the theatre entrepreneur, John Rich. It was at Rich’s theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields that The Beggar’s Opera was performed in 1728 and it was said that the huge financial rewards for Rich and the librettist John Gay made “Gay rich and Rich gay”. The Covent Garden Theatre became Handel’s main performing venue during the 1730s and a rivalry began with a new opera company called the Opera of the Nobility who based themselves at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, John Rich’s other theatre.

Title: Equestrian Portrait of George II
Artist: Joseph Highmore
Medium: Oil on canvas
Date: 1743-5
Collection: Tate Collections

Handel wrote the coronation anthems for George II and Queen Caroline’s coronation in 1727, which included Zadok the Priest, a piece that has been performed at every coronation since. In order to write the anthems, Handel was made a British citizen and it was at this time that Handel anglicised his name to George Frederic Handel. Unlike his father, George I, George II spoke English and was a military enthusiast. However, he shared his father’s passion for Handel’s music and he had the great events of his reign -such as the Battle of Dettingen in June 1743, at which George became the last British monarch to command troops in the field- commemorated in orchestral works by Handel.

Title: Fete Champetre
Artist: Jean-Antoine Watteau
Medium: Oil on deal panel
Date: 19th century
Collection: Victoria & Albert Museum

The French painter, Jean-Antoine Watteau was born in 1684 and is known for his influence on the arts including costume, poetry and music. Handel and Watteau are both known for revitalising the Baroque style and for their mastery at creating pastoral scenes with a theatrical air within their different art forms. It is no surprise then that Handel owned two of Watteau’s pictures when he lived here in Brook Street: A Conversation and Its Companion. Watteau’s paintings were extremely popular in England in the first half of the 18th century and it would have been very fashionable to own works painted by him.

This painting showcases Watteau’s ‘fete galantes’, a genre that he created in the 1710s to illuminate the idyllic charm and theatricality of the countryside. It depicts elegant figures in a wooded landscape, which conveys a sense of mystery.

Handel had a vast art collection of around 80 significant works. They were all sold at auction in 1760 by Mr Langford in Covent Garden and so, whilst we have not yet been able to trace the journey of these works to the present day, we have a comprehensive list of what Handel had in his collection at 25 Brook Street. The list suggests that Handel had a keen interest in landscape and pastoral scenes, as well as conversation pieces (groups of people talking and partaking in activities together).

Title: Woody landscape with cattle and stream
Artist: Jacob Salomonsz Ruysdael
Medium: Oil on oak panel
Date: 1678
Collection: Victoria & Albert Museum Collection

This painting depicts a wooden landscape with cattle and sheep grazing by a stream and cattle herder on horseback. Handel owned a painting called A landscape and cattle by Ruysdael. The Ruysdael family included at least four different painters, all of whom were painting at the same time and specialised in landscapes. It is thought that many of the Ruysdael attributions are inaccurate and so it is difficult to know which Ruysdael painted which picture.