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.

Louise Stewart

Louise Stewart

Curator, 16th Century to Contemporary Collections

Maternity leave


Job description

I work across the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, developing and supporting numerous collections projects in all periods and media. This includes curating exhibitions and displays, generating interpretation for permanent collection displays and working on Gallery publications and acquisitions documentation. I am the recipient of an Art Fund New Collecting Award to diversify the Gallery’s collections by acquiring popular, global and ephemeral portraits.  This includes a range of objects owned and viewed by ordinary people, with functions from propaganda to memorialisation.  These objects will be included in a temporary display in 2019.  I am currently curating a major touring exhibition of royal portraits from Tudors to Windsors and supporting plans for the redisplay of the Gallery’s collections.


I studied History of Art at the University of Edinburgh before undertaking a Master’s in the History of Art and Visual Culture at Oxford University. I completed my PhD at the University of Nottingham in 2016. At Nottingham, I taught on a number of modules focusing on the early modern period and convened a new module on Art at the Tudor Courts. I have worked for various museums, galleries and arts organisations including Nottingham Contemporary, The National Centre for Craft and Design and Ordinary Culture. I joined the National Portrait Gallery’s Curatorial Department in June 2014.

Research interests

As an element of my current project to collect popular portraits, I am actively researching the role of portraiture and identity in the decoration of homes from the early modern period to the present.  My research interests are wide ranging and include early modern ideas and practices of gender and their expression in portraiture, women’s domestic work in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England and the architecture and interior decoration of the early modern home. 

My doctoral thesis focused on the sweet banquet in England, from its emergence at court in the 1520s to its eventual dissemination to the gentry and ‘middling sorts’ in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  As such I have strong interests in food history, court culture and the domestic in early modern England.

Recent Publications

‘Social Status and Classicism in The Visual And Material Culture Of The Sweet Banquet In Early Modern England’ in The Historical Journal, December 2018 (forthcoming), available online at

‘Jewellery and Authenticity in two Tudor Portraits’, British Art Journal (forthcoming)

‘Loyalty and Dissent: Royal Portraiture Beyond the Court’, in Tarnya Cooper, ed. Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2018, pp.61-83

Folded Beauty: Masterpieces in Linen by Joan Salas, Holburne Museum, Bath’, Text: The Journal of the Textile Society vol. 41 (Spring 2014)