Come Dine with 18th Century Me - A Virtual Exhibition by Jenny Dempsey at LHQ Gallery

If you suddenly found yourself in 1780s Cork and were asked to throw a dinner party, would you display yourself to be a woman of style and taste? Would you know how to dress and what food to serve? Would you be au-fait with current affairs and social etiquette? Could you successfully navigate your apothecary chest to cure your aching head the morning after?

The LHQ gallery, Cork County Council Library and Arts exhibition space, is delighted to present its second virtual exhibition of 2021, Come Dine With 18th Century Me, by West Cork based artist and designer Jenny Dempsey. Come Dine with 18th Century Me, invites the modern viewer to step back in time and take a light-hearted look at life in 1780s Cork. By showcasing familiar activities with which we still engage, we can compare life then with life now and the unfamiliar past becomes relevant. Eighteenth century Cork was an exciting place. Trade with far-flung places brought many luxuries to our shores. Exotic foods, fine china, and sumptuous silks were all the rage. 

Visit the Come Dine With 18th Century Me virtual exhibition.

Jenny Dempsey is creating a body of work tracing life for Irish women from the late 18th century to the formation of the Free State, exploring visual storytelling to enhance information accessibility. While there’s been countless historic works produced on Irish history, much of it deals with the male perspective and most of it is presented in an academic fashion. Jenny’s work tells history by stealth, using curated stories, motifs from popular culture, humour and whimsy to draw the viewer in. 

The idea emerged from a research project undertaken for Nano Nagle Place. Nano Nagle, an 18th century Cork woman, used her personal wealth to educate Catholic poor. Her story could be termed a tale of riches to rags. Interested in the mundane details of the life that Nano chose to abandon, Jenny collected information from books, letters, diaries, and newspaper advertisements. She discovered that women in the past were engaged with the same activities that engage women today: falling in love, feeding family, following fashion and finding self-fulfilment. Discovering how and why the routines and paraphernalia around these activities have altered is fascinating. It is the story of female emancipation. 

Jenny is now working on a series of How-to-Guides which curate and narrate curious facts to tell this story.  Jenny is also currently researching two future books: A Guide to Gardens and A Guide to Pandemics. Accompanying the exhibition is a limited-edition book available for purchase. Her previous books, The Curious Lady’s Guide to Marriage 1811 – 1820 and The Ladies’ Guide: Cork 1780 are available from her website.