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.

Royalty and celebrity

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Edward Lear
by Unknown artist
circa 1830s
NPG 1759

For most enthusiasts, silhouettes were popular as a party game and could be cut or painted with the aid of a candle and a simple makeshift screen. Reading the resulting profiles for character traits, in line with popular theories of the day, only added an enjoyable edge of apprehension and anticipation to the entertainment.

Many famous faces sat to the growing number of professional silhouette artists and a trade soon developed in engraved reproductions of their portraits. These were especially popular as frontispieces or illustrations in biographies. The craze was nowhere more popular than at court, where George III and Queen Charlotte sat to all the best-known profitlists of the day.

Top: Composite image, from left to right:

- John Henry Alexander; Mr Weekes; John Francis Theodon; John Lloyd, 1832

- Mrs Robert Beveridge; Anne Beveridge; Andrew Beveridge; Hugh Beveridge; Robert Beveridge
, 1832

- Jane Anderson; Esther Ainslie; Helena Anderson; Mrs Arkley; Charles Atherton
, circa 1830

Catherine Lear
by Unknown artist
circa 1830s
NPG 1759c

- Sarah Siddons; Tyrone Power; Tyrone Power, 1832

4 silhouettes by Augustin Edouart (1789-1861)