Adopt a Portrait Roundel
The Gallery’s exterior features eighteen Portland stone busts or ‘roundel sculptures’. These were personally commissioned by our first director George Scharf and were created by sculptor Frederick C. Thomas. Each roundel was intended to be historically accurate and where possible was based on a portrait in our Collection. These portray biographical writers, historians and eminent artists including Thomas Carlyle, Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Anthony van Dyck and Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Adopt a roundel and support the conservation and restoration of our historic façade. Roundels can be exclusively supported for a donation of £50,000 or for £5,000 as part of a group of ten.To find our more contact: Melanie Aram, Head of Major Gifts & Appeals, [email protected]
Sir Francis Chantrey
The most outstanding sculptor of his generation, Chantrey executed portrait busts, public monuments and memorials. His success was the result of his study of character, combining direct observation with simplicity of form. Born in Sheffield, he had little formal training, but was able to establish himself in fashionable society in 1809 when he married into money and set up a studio in London. In 1811, the exhibition of his bust of the radical John Horne Tooke made his name. The National Portrait Gallery Collection includes busts of Queen Victoria and Sir Walter Scott by Chantrey.
Sir Thomas Lawrence
Born in Bristol and beginning as a child prodigy working in pastels, Lawrence was the leading portrait painter of the early 19th century. With the temperament and flair to capture the glamour of the age, Lawrence created the image of Regency high-society with dazzling brushwork and an innovative use of colour. His reputation was ensured when he acquired the patronage of the Prince Regent and was commissioned to paint portraits of the allied leaders of the Napoleonic war. Lawrence was appointed President of the Royal Academy in 1820.
Sir Joshua Reynolds
Reynolds was one of Britain's leading portrait painters of the 18th century. In his attempt to raise the status of portraiture, he created the 'Grand Manner' which borrowed from classical antiquity and the Old Masters to fill his portraits with moral and heroic symbolism. Appointed President of the newly established Royal Academy in 1768, his annual lectures - Discourses on Art - had a lasting impact on the contemporary theory and practice of art and remain in print today. Reynolds is seen grasping his honorary Doctorate awarded by Oxford University in 1773.
Painter and engraver
Hogarth began painting in 1727, soon producing portraits and 'comic histories' such as A Rake's Progress and Marriage à-la-mode. An abrasive social commentator, he was never the less appointed Sergeant Painter to George II in 1757. At a time when foreign artists flocked to London, Hogarth was concerned with the status of native artists, recommending that they seek inspiration from the infinite variety of contemporary human existence and advocating for the Englishness of English art. He wrote The Analysis of Beauty in 1753, which argued that shapes and colours in nature are geared towards 'entertaining the eye with the pleasure of variety.' His moral and satirical engravings were very popular and contributed to him becoming the most significant English artist of his generation. The roundel is based on the National Portrait Gallery’s bust by Louis François Roubiliac.
Louis François Roubiliac
Born in Lyons, he came to London in 1730, eventually becoming the most highly regarded sculptor working in 18th-century England. He made his name with a full-length statue of Handel as Apollo, erected in Vauxhall Gardens in 1738 (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum). His dramatic work Monument of Lady Elizabeth Nightingale (1761) is in Westminster Abbey. Roubiliac was celebrated for his busts, which show a remarkable feeling for character and are varied in design, full of movement and exquisite in modelling. The roundel portrays Roubiliac looking down and towards a smaller bust on his left.
Sir Godfrey Kneller
German-born but Dutch trained, Kneller reportedly travelled to England in 1676 because of his ‘longing to see Sir Anthony van Dyck’s Works, being most ambitious of imitating that great Master’. He would become the leading portraitist in England during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Like Van Dyck and Sir Peter Lely before him, Kneller became Principal Painter to the king and was knighted. William III also gave him a gold medal and chain, similar to those given to Van Dyck by Charles I. In recognition of his talents, in 1715, George I created Kneller a baronet – a rank that was not surpassed by any artist until 1896 when Sir Frederic Leighton received a peerage.
Sir Peter Lely
The Dutch artist Peter Lely was trained in Haarlem and came to London in the 1640s. At the start of his career, he painted Biblical and mythological scenes; however it was as a portraitist that he established his reputation. At the Restoration he was appointed Principal Painter to King Charles II and he was knighted in 1680. Lely was the most technically proficient painter in England after the death of Van Dyck and the most fashionable and influential painter of his time. Samuel Pepys called him ‘a mighty proud man, and full of state’.
Sir Anthony van Dyck
Sir Anthony van Dyck was the most influential painter to have worked in Britain during the seventeenth century. Flemish by birth, he eventually made his home in England from the beginning of his second visit in 1632 until his death in 1641. It was Van Dyck who decisively turned British portraiture away from the stiff, formal 'iconic' approach of Tudor and Jacobean painting. In England he developed the distinctive fluid, shimmering style that was to dominate portraiture in Britain during the seventeenth century through to the start of the twentieth century. He was rewarded by his most famous patron, Charles I, with a knighthood. In 2014, the National Portrait Gallery purchased his self-portrait (c. 1640). The roundel shows him with flamboyant moustache, goatee beard and lace collar.
Hans Holbein the Younger
Hans Holbein is regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time. He came to England, from Basel, in 1526–8 and again in 1531–43 (until his death). A technically accomplished and highly versatile artist, he was renowned for his precisely rendered drawings and the compelling realism. He painted Henry VIII and his Court, including the lost group portrait of Sir Thomas More and his family. Part of his ink-and-watercolour cartoon for a mural in Whitehall Palace is in the Gallery’s Collection, showing Henry VIII and his father Henry VII. The original mural was destroyed in the Palace fire of 1698.
Writer and Collector
The youngest son of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, Horace Walpole was one of the eighteenth century's most famous writers and collectors. A pioneer of the Gothic taste in art, architecture and literature, he formed an exceptional collection at Strawberry Hill, the 'little Gothic castle' which he designed in Twickenham. His literary works include the first history of English art, Anecdotes of Painting, 1762, and the Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, 1764. Walpole was a great socialite and his collected letters are full of gossip and information about the most fashionable figures of the eighteenth century. He is remembered as perhaps the most scrupulous letter writer in the English language.
Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon
A great statesman as well as an historian, Clarendon served Charles II as secretary during his exile, and became his chief minister at the Restoration. Much disliked, both for the moderation of his policies, and for his personal pomposity, he was ousted from power in 1667 by the Cabal ministry. In exile in Rouen, he wrote an important work on the Civil War, the History of the Great Rebellion. He built up a substantial portrait collection, acquiring portraits of contemporary Royalists. Through his daughter Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, he was grandfather to both Queen Mary and Queen Anne. The bust shows Clarendon wearing his Lord Chancellor’s robes.
Writer and historian
Thomas Fuller was educated at Cambridge and went onto become ordained, gaining a reputation as a preacher. As well as publishing several theological works he is perhaps best known as the author of the Worthies of England (published after his death in 1662). A collection of historical facts and source of local histories of England and Wales, examining county by county: first, natural resources and manufactures, and then notable people, starting with princes and saints.
Edmund Lodge was a historian and writer on heraldic subjects. Works included Illustrations of British History, Biography, and Manners in the Reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth and James I (3 vols., 1791), which consisted of selections from the manuscripts of the Howard, Talbot and Cecil families. He also wrote Life of Sir Julius Caesar (1827). Lodge contributed to Portraits of Illustrious Personages of Great Britain (1814). His most important work on heraldry was The Genealogy of the Existing British Peerage (1832). The bust portrays Lodge wearing a herald’s tabard as Norroy King of Arms.
Engraver and draughtsman
William Faithorne was an English painter and engraver who was captured during the civil wars, imprisoned, and exiled as a royalist. By 1652, Faithorne had returned to London. His close links with the international print trade enabled him to establish his own print shop. In addition to selling prints, he continued to work as a printer and engraver, and published The Art of Graving and Etching in 1662. On the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Faithorne was appointed engraver in copper to the king. As a portrait engraver, his subjects included Oliver Cromwell, John Milton, Queen Catherine and Charles I.
Biographer and print collector
James Granger was a biographer, print collector and clergyman. Born in Dorset, his Biographical History of England, 1769, provided a system for classifying British portrait prints in twelve biographical categories, and led to the 'grangerisation' or extra-illustration of his book by print collectors. Granger was the vicar of Shiplake, Oxford, from 1746-76. At the time of his death, Granger possessed a collection of approximately 14,000 engraved portraits. The roundel is believed to be based upon an engraved portrait of Granger held in the British Museum, which was used for the frontispiece of the Biographical History of England.
Thomas Babington Macaulay
Statesman and historian
Macaulay was among the founding trustees of the National Portrait Gallery, and one of the great intellectual figures of the age. He became a mainstay of the Edinburgh Review, MP from 1830, member of the Supreme Council of India, 1834-38 and Secretary at War,1839-41, as well as proposing and carrying the Copyright Bill. Macaulay published his famous History of England, 1848-55.
Philip Stanhope, 5th Earl Stanhope
Philip Stanhope, fifth earl of Chesterfield, was a chief advocate of the National Portrait Gallery and the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He was the promoter of the 1842 Copyright Act and of the Historical Manuscripts Commission. Stanhope was a supporter of William Pitt the Younger, whom he held office under. He held a number of posts including ambassador to Spain (1783–7); master of the Royal Mint (1789–90); joint postmaster-general (1790–98). In 1776 he was appointed Fellow, Society of Antiquaries (F.S.A.) and Fellow, Royal Society (F.R.S.).
Historian and essayist
Known as the 'Sage of Chelsea', Carlyle was one of the great intellects of the 19th century whose works of history and philosophy exercised a profound influence on the thought and temper of the age. His corrosive criticism and uncertain temper became legendary. A recognised literary leader from 1837, he eulogized heroes and strong governments, mistrusted technological progress and analysed brilliantly the sufferings of the common people. He inspired the foundation of the London Library, which opened in 1841 and whose first subscribers included Charles Dickens. Carlyle was an early advocate of the foundation of the National Portrait Gallery.