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Historians Stanhope, Macaulay & Carlyle Found the National Portrait Gallery


On December 2, 1856 biographers and historians Philip Henry Stanhope, Thomas Babington Macaulay and Thomas Carlyle founded the National Portrait Gallery in London as:

" '...a gallery of original portraits, such portraits to consist as far as possible of those persons who are most honourably commemorated in British history as warriors or as statesmen, or in arts, in literature or in science' " (, accessed 02-25-2009).

Among the founder Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery were Stanhope as Chairman, Macaulay, Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Ellesmere, a former Trustee of the National Gallery, who offered to the nation the so-called Chandos portrait of Shakespeare, which became the first picture to enter the Gallery's collection. On Ellesmere's death in 1857 Carlyle became a Trustee.

"The National Portrait Gallery was established with the criteria that the Gallery was to be about history, not about art, and about the status of the sitter, rather than the quality or character of a particular image considered as a work of art" (from the link cited above).

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