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.

Advanced Collection search

William Gifford Palgrave: Master of Disguise

Past display archive
3 August 2015 - 15 May 2016

Room 23: case display

Free

This display showcases the Gallery’s diverse collection of photographs of the leading British explorer and scholar of the Middle East, William Gifford Palgrave (1826-1888). After serving for a time in the Indian army, Palgrave converted to Roman Catholicism and worked as a missionary in southern India until 1853. He began his long engagement with the Arab world in 1855 as a missionary in Syria, where he witnessed the persecution of Syrian Christians. Palgrave’s most notable achievement lay in exploring Arabia, which had for years been closed to Europeans. In 1862 and 1863 he became the first Westerner to cross Arabia by a diagonal route, from north-west to south-east, travelling in disguise and at great risk as a European. A deep interest in identity, whether racial, national and religious is made evident in Palgrave’s writings, his propensity for disguise and by his multiple name changes.

See also
Palgrave family tree


© National Portrait Gallery, London

Listen

Pioneer Podcasts

Listen to a series of podcasts exploring the lives of pioneering women, past and present.

Explore the podcasts

Untitled, c.1973 (Alex Chilton) by William Eggleston © Eggleston Artistic Trust

Eggleston Playlist

William Eggleston was closely associated with the alternative music scene in Memphis. Revisit our 2016 exhibition and listen to a special playlist.

Listen to the playlist

Archive interviews

Links to audio and transcripts of interviews with artists, sitters and historic recordings.

Watch, listen and read