Please note due to the installation of Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, our British Portraits Gallery, Northern European Gallery and Women's Library will be closed until Saturday 28 May. Portrait Artist of the Year and our other permanent collections will remain open. We apologise for any inconvenience.

British Portraits Collection

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This collection features portraits of people who have played a role in shaping Britain’s history, from King Henry VIII and his children Edward VI and Elizabeth I, to the Persian ambassador Mirza Abu’l Hassan Khan, who negotiated an alliance with George III. In each case, the clothing worn by the sitters helps to convey their identity: from the rich green velvet skirts of the two-year-old boy in Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s touching portrait, to the lace shawl of Lady Fawkener, delicately rendered in pastel by French artist Jean-Etienne Liotard. One of the largest paintings in our collection is Joshua Reynolds’ life-size portrait of the renowned beauty Mrs Baldwin, who wears a turban and a green and gold kaftan. The smallest is Samuel Cooper’s celebrated miniature of Oliver Cromwell in armour. Painted in 1657, four years after he had created himself Lord Protector of the English Commonwealth, Cromwell reportedly urged Cooper to capture him ‘warts & all’.

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