The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Catharine MacLeod

Catharine MacLeod

Senior Curator, 17th Century Collections

My Posts:

Job description

As Curator of Seventeenth-century Portraits I am responsible for the acquisition, display and interpretation of portraits dating from this period. In addition my role involves providing advice to colleagues, members of the public and other institutions, and undertaking research both on the Gallery’s collection and on seventeenth-century British portraiture more generally. Current projects include work towards an exhibition on Elizabethan and Jacobean portrait miniatures, and a catalogue raisonné of the works of Sir Peter Lely with Diana Dethloff.


I studied English at the University of Cambridge and History of Art at the Courtauld Institute. My studies were followed by a year at the Royal Collection, working on sixteenth and seventeenth-century portrait miniatures, and then three years at York City Art Gallery. I was appointed Curator of Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-century Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in 1995 and worked in that position until 2002, during which time I oversaw the installation of the new Tudor Gallery in the Gallery’s Ondaatje Wing, the refurbishment of the seventeenth-century galleries and of the displays at Montacute House in Somerset, and co-curated Painted Ladies: Women at the Court of Charles II. In 2002 I started work part-time as Seventeenth-century curator, and in 2012 I curated The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart.

Research interests

I am interested in all seventeenth-century British portraiture, but in particular early portrait miniatures, seventeenth-century workshop practice, the work of Sir Peter Lely and his studio, and art and collecting at the Jacobean court. Building on the work of the late Sir Oliver Millar and Diana Dethloff, I am researching and co-writing a catalogue raisonné of the works of Sir Peter Lely, to be published by Yale University Press. I am currently working on the portraiture of Anne of Denmark for a chapter in Telling Objects, a forthcoming book edited by Gillian Bepler and Svante Norrhem, coming out of the HERA-funded research project Marrying Cultures.

Recent Publications

‘Robert Peake: portraits, patrons and technical evidence’, in Tarnya Cooper et al (eds.), Painting in Britain 1500-1630, Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 2015.

Van Dyck: The Last Self-Portrait, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2015

The Lost Prince: The Life & Death of Henry Stuart, Catharine MacLeod with Timothy Wilks, Malcolm Smuts and Rab MacGibbon, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2012

Painted Ladies: Women at the Court of Charles II (National Portrait Gallery, 2001), with Julia Marciari Alexander; Politics, Transgression and Representation at the Court of Charles II (Yale Center for British Art and The Paul Mellon Centre for the Studies in British Art, 2007), also with Julia Marciari Alexander; two chapters on the portrait collection of Lord Lumley (with Tarnya Cooper and Margaret Zoller) in Art Collecting and Lineage in the Elizabethan Age: the Lumley Inventory and Pedigree.