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.

Painting Parliament: The Fine Arts Commission 1841 – 1863

Past display archive
12 August 2014 - 10 May 2015

Room 25: case display


This display focuses on the committee of key Victorian figures appointed to oversee the decoration of the newly-built Houses of Parliament.

After the old royal palace of Westminster was almost all burned to the ground in 1834, an architectural competition was held for its redesign.  Helped by the Gothic Revival architect Augustus Pugin, Charles Barry won the prize with his design, and the foundation stone of the new building was laid in 1840. At this point, attention was turned to the interior decoration of Barry’s architectural shell and a Fine Arts Commission was appointed in 1841 to oversee the major project. The Commissioners were keen to foster a national school of history painting, and the project mobilised the artist community of Britain in a rare large-scale state-funded art project.

This display focuses on a selection of key Committee members, including the young Prince Albert (Chairman), Sir Charles Lock Eastlake (Secretary), Prime Minister 3rd Viscount Palmerston and the artist, Charles Maclise.

© National Portrait Gallery, London