Knole - Reynolds Room

This section of the page features an image gallery, so if you're using a screen reader you may wish to jump to the main content.

This is almost a tour of the 18th century, a room created after the tastes of the remarkable 3rd Duke of Dorset, cricket lover, patron of the arts and pictured here in full-length glory by his friend Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The 3rd Duke’s many commissions from the artist hang here, including portraits of Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, David Garrick and the lovely picture of Wang-y-Tong, thought to be the first naturalistic portrait of a Chinese subject. Wang-y-Tong was the 3rd Duke’s page boy: he was educated at Sevenoaks School and eventually set up his own business. He sits in the Reynolds Room, clad in scarlet, looking thoughtfully out of the windows.

Sir Thomas's remodelling

Looking back to the entrance to this room, you'll see the stone doorcase with mid-15th century mouldings, showing that this was part of Archbishop Bourchier's original building. The plasterwork ceiling, chimneypiece and overmantel are all part of the 1st Earl's early Jacobean remodelling. The design of the main part of the overmantel borrows heavily from the work of Jacques Androuet du Cerceau. It shows putti seated on the back of sphinxes holding up a lance with trophies of arms. The Bethersden Marble panels on either side are carved with images of flowers and fruit. The caryatids (supporting columns in human form) below have heads and feet of brass. It's thought that the original intention may have been to gild the brass. Imagine the effect!

Rare wall covering

This room's alternative name was the Crimson Drawing Room. The walls are covered in an extremely rare red caffoy, a crimson stamped woollen velvet, matched by the upholstery of the walnut chairs and settees of the room. They make up part of a large set spread between this room and the Cartoon Gallery which you'll visit next.

Conservation experiments

We've run several conservation experiments in the Reynolds Room over recent years, including trialling an exact replica of our fragile 17th century Goan carpet. The likeness is so good that visitors hesitate to step on it – but you're welcome to come right into this room and get close to the portraits, for the first time in centuries. Look out for the small scenes in each of the four corners: sailors wearing Portuguese costumes and the European ships sailing towards the decorative border.