- Taking place in England’s Regency era, the Bridgerton series follows two rivaling families as their daughters negotiate the debutante season.
- Parallel to the plot’s unfolding, art history unravels.
- With the second season coming up, here are some of the ways art featured in the show.
Location, location, location
In planning the first season’s eight episodes, Bridgerton’s location scouts made ample use of museums.
Founded in 1882, the Holburne Museum doubles up as Lady Danbury’s residence. Located in Sydney Pleasure Gardens in Somerset, the museum is the city’s first public art gallery and home to Sir William Holburne’s decorative arts collection.
In both this series and The Crown, Wilton House near Salisbury serves as Buckingham Palace.
There’s also the Bridgerton home which in reality is the Ranger House Museum in London. The Ranger House houses the art collection of German-born baron of South African mines, Julius Wernher. When Covid-19 regulations allow, all these are open to the public.
An 18th century portrait of Queen Charlotte
Played by Golda Rosheuve, Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte is based on German-born Queen of England, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744–1818). She is often referred to as England’s first Black queen.
Using this painting as a reference, Queen Charlotte is said to be a descendant of Angola’s 11th century King Afonso III and his mistress Madragana from Portugal. Her race has been contested by many historians. However, in Bridgerton the painting is used to transport the theme of a multi-racial English nobility.
A Diego Velázquez portrait transformed
Spanish artist Diego Velázquez once painted a man named Juan de Pareja. He was a mixed race enslaved assistant working at Velázquez’s studio. Transforming the portrait for the show, the painting of Pareja introduces him to the audience as a Black aristocrat, one that could represent one of Queen Charlotte’s ancestors.
In the third episode, the debutantes and their suitors visit Somerset House to see the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition, a part of which is a donation of family paintings from the Duke of Hastings.
The landscape that starts a love affair
Standing in front of a landscape painting, Daphne Bridgerton remarks, “The other paintings are certainly very grand and impressive, but this one… this one is intimate.” The painting belonged to Duke of Hasting, Simon’s late mother. This leads their hands to briefly touch even though it is forbidden. The painting that they stand before is Landscape with the Flight into Egypt by Dutch painter Aelbert Cuyp.
While yearning for an outlet, Benedict Bridgerton befriends artist Sir Henry Granville who invited him to a party. Here Benedict learns that Granville is not as conservative as his reserved public portraits. Instead his home is a lair of pleasure for closeted queer folk and like minded allies.
During the visit Granville shows Benedict his hidden collection of paintings; recreations of paintings existing outside of fictitious Bridgerton. These paintings are remakes of Orazio Gentileschi’s Danaë and the Shower of Gold (1621–23); Hendrick Goltzius’s The Sleeping Danaë Being Prepared to Receive Jupiter (1603) and Jacques-Louis David’s Cupid and Psyche (1817).
Artists have for a long time used mythology to talk about illicit matters. In the case of Granville, mythological figures point to issues of consent. Both subjects of these paintings: Danaë and Psyche were tricked into sexual encounters with gods. Perhaps this hints at matters of consent in dignitary spaces, Daphne and Simon included.