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.

Beautiful Souls

Past display archive
5 December 2011 - 12 August 2012

Room 28

Free

Violet Manners, Duchess of Rutland
after Violet Manners, Duchess of Rutland
1891
NPG D23362

The ‘Souls’ were a sophisticated set of young aristocrats and society debutantes, who were drawn together by a shared interest in erudite conversation and high-spirited wit in the last two decades of the nineteenth century.  Counting amongst their number many brilliant young politicians, such as Arthur Balfour MP, later Conservative Prime Minister, a pivotal figure in the group, and the charismatic daughters of prominent families, the ‘Souls’ had a powerful impact on British culture and society.

Focusing on portraits of key individuals, this display explores the group’s spiritual affinity with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; in particular their support and close friendship with the artist, Edward Burne-Jones. Patrons and sitters for his work, several of the female ‘Souls’ inspired his depictions of nymphs and sirens. Featuring a range of prints and photographs, the display showcases the fine portrait studies of the group made by a leading ‘Soul’ – Violet Manners, Duchess of Rutland. An influential aristocrat and talented artist, Violet not only embraced the aesthetic lifestyle advocated by the Pre-Raphaelites, but also had the features of a ‘Burne-Jones Medusa’.

© National Portrait Gallery, London