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.

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Subjects and themes

To help visitors explore the Gallery's collections every portrait digitised is keyworded at the Gallery by subject, with five main categories: accessory, activity, dress, genre and theme. Some individual keywords in each category are illustrated with a selection of portraits below. To explore the full list of keywords in each category and the full set of portraits keyworded in each category, go to the Subjects and Themes section under Portrait in Advanced Search.


Objects and other elements within the portrait (examples: art, books, clocks, flowers, maps, mirrors, pets and textiles).

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What sitters are doing (examples: dancing, eating and drinking, making art and music, reading, sleeping and writing).

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What sitters are wearing and holding (examples: glasses, fans, gloves, hats, jewellery, umbrellas).

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Portraiture types (examples: self-portraits, group portraits, portraits of children and families, nudes, weddings).

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Overarching themes (examples: diversity, events and occasions, artists in their studios, words and inscriptions, gardens).

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Scientific techniques

Watch our playlist exploring scientific techniques used by the Gallery to unlock the secrets behind our Tudor portraits.

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Subjects and themes

Search the collection by themes - from pets to weddings!

Discover the Collection

Black History Month

Take a tour exploring our Collection created by Alayo Akinkugbe for Black History Month in 2020.

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A Picture of Health

Learn about pioneers in medicine, health and social reform from 1840 to 1920.

Explore the timeline