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Room 23

Empire and Resistance

During the reign of Queen Victoria, Britain’s empire became the largest in the world. This room explores how portraiture was used to promote the British Empire as the embodiment of global power, civilization and superiority. This belief was widely held at the time but it was also challenged and resisted. These discussions continue today. Displayed here are paintings of military and administrative figures who upheld the empire. There are also images that show people who were living under colonial rule or were caught up in imperial conflict. Other portraits represent individuals who resisted the empire by highlighting its brutality and questioning the very concept of colonialism. Each of these portraits tells a story about the British Empire and the lives it touched. Together, they open up conversations about this complex history and prompt us to ask: who is represented and how.

29 portraits on display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery

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Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, by Francis Cruikshank - NPG 3953

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston

by Francis Cruikshank
oil on canvas, circa 1855-1859
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG 3953

The Relief of Lucknow, 1857, by Thomas Jones Barker - NPG 5851

The Relief of Lucknow, 1857

by Thomas Jones Barker
oil on canvas, 1859
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG 5851

'The Secret of England's Greatness' (Queen Victoria presenting a Bible in the Audience Chamber at Windsor), by Thomas Jones Barker - NPG 4969

'The Secret of England's Greatness' (Queen Victoria presenting a Bible in the Audience Chamber at Windsor)

by Thomas Jones Barker
oil on canvas, circa 1862-1863
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG 4969

John Stuart Mill, by John & Charles Watkins, or by  John Watkins - NPG P46

John Stuart Mill

by John & Charles Watkins, or by John Watkins
albumen print, partially over-painted in ink wash, 1865
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG P46

Thomas Carlyle, by Julia Margaret Cameron - NPG P122

Thomas Carlyle

by Julia Margaret Cameron
albumen print, 1867
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG P122

Edward John Eyre, by Julia Margaret Cameron - NPG P985

Edward John Eyre

by Julia Margaret Cameron
albumen print, 1867
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG P985

Julia Margaret Cameron, by Unknown photographer - NPG P880

Julia Margaret Cameron

by Unknown photographer
albumen print, circa 1868
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG P880

Sir Richard Francis Burton, by Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton - NPG 1070

Sir Richard Francis Burton

by Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton
oil on canvas, 1872-1875
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG 1070

Queen Victoria, by an unknown Yoruba artist - NPG L287

Queen Victoria

by an unknown Yoruba artist
wood; pigment, circa 1880
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG L287

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, by Walter Wallis - NPG 5724

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

by Walter Wallis
oil on canvas, 1881
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG 5724

Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, by Sir Hubert von Herkomer, and  Frederick Goodall - NPG 1782

Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener

by Sir Hubert von Herkomer, and Frederick Goodall
oil on canvas, 1890
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG 1782

David Livingstone, by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company - NPG Ax28415

David Livingstone

by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company
albumen carte-de-visite, 1860s
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG Ax28415

Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies)), by Camille Silvy - NPG Ax61380

Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies))

by Camille Silvy
albumen print, 15 September 1862
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG Ax61380

Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies)), by Camille Silvy - NPG Ax61384

Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies))

by Camille Silvy
albumen print, 15 September 1862
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG Ax61384

James Pinson Labulo Davies; Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies)), by Camille Silvy - NPG Ax61382

James Pinson Labulo Davies; Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies))

by Camille Silvy
albumen print, 15 September 1862
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG Ax61382

James Pinson Labulo Davies; Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies)), by Camille Silvy - NPG Ax61385

James Pinson Labulo Davies; Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies))

by Camille Silvy
albumen print, 15 September 1862
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG Ax61385

James Pinson Labulo Davies, by Camille Silvy - NPG Ax61381

James Pinson Labulo Davies

by Camille Silvy
albumen print, 15 September 1862
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG Ax61381

James Pinson Labulo Davies, by Camille Silvy - NPG Ax61383

James Pinson Labulo Davies

by Camille Silvy
albumen print, 15 September 1862
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG Ax61383

Helen Jane M. Curror, by Camille Silvy - NPG Ax61379

Helen Jane M. Curror

by Camille Silvy
albumen print, 15 September 1862
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG Ax61379

Wilhelmina Baines, by Camille Silvy - NPG Ax61386

Wilhelmina Baines

by Camille Silvy
albumen print, 16 September 1862
On display in Room 23 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG Ax61386