Past display archive
22 October 2012 - 2 June 2013
Room 24 case display
Walter Crane as Cimabue
by Sir Emery Walker
Revealing a playful aspect of Victorian society, this display explores the nineteenth-century enthusiasm for fancy dress. Defined both as an event, traditionally a masked ball, and as a concept, the wearing of costume for purposes of disguise or amusement, the masquerade had come into fashion in the previous century. Encouraged by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, this vogue continued throughout the nineteenth century, with a change in emphasis towards privately organised, rather than commercial, costume balls, but on an equally splendid scale.
Featuring images of the royal family, the aristocracy, and leading Victorian artists in fancy dress, this display highlights the portrait tradition that developed in tandem with this pastime - the so-called ‘fancy portrait’. Sometimes, such commissions simply recorded the sitter’s appearance in a costume worn to a particular event, but at others, they exemplified instances when the subjects chose to be portrayed in historical dress to suggest an affiliation with the past. As these masquerades in art and practice allowed the sitter to adopt an alternative persona, and were often driven by intellectual interests, such as medievalism, this display demonstrates the serious intent underlying some of these imaginary portrayals and the prevalence of their existence.
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Listen to a series of podcasts exploring the lives of pioneering women, past and present.
William Eggleston was closely associated with the alternative music scene in Memphis. Revisit our 2016 exhibition and listen to a special playlist.
Links to audio and transcripts of interviews with artists, sitters and historic recordings.
- Louisa Anne Beresford (NPG 3176)
- Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt (NPG P79)
- William Frederick Yeames (NPG P98)
- Frederick Walker (NPG P84)
- William Holman Hunt (NPG P75)
- Mary Frances Crane (née Andrews) as Laura; Walter Crane as Cimabue (NPG x19680)
- King Edward VII when Prince of Wales as Grand Prior of the order of St John of Jerusalem (NPG x128600)
- Walter Crane as Cimabue (NPG x131224)
- Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (NPG D8138)
- Queen Victoria (NPG D33583)
- Queen Victoria (NPG D8157)
- Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (NPG D8140)
- Queen Victoria; King Edward VII (NPG D33628)