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See great masterpieces in National Trust collections

A painting of a young man casually lying on the ground in a green woodland glade. He wears ornate blue and white Elizabethan-style trousers and bodice and he has a dark brown beard and moustache. Behind him, in another woodland glade, there are two horses and another figure.
Edward Herbert, 1st Lord Herbert of Cherbury, by Isaac Oliver | © National Trust Images/Todd-White Art Photography

Did you know you could see a Velázquez at Ickworth in Suffolk or a Rembrandt at Buckland Abbey in Devon? The National Trust looks after more than 13,000 oil paintings at over 200 historic houses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Included in this vast collection is a treasure trove of paintings from across Europe, dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries.

Please note

All of these pictures are usually on display, but please check the individual property webpage before planning your visit.


Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516)

An uncanny mixture of the celestial and the sinister is very much on show in the central panel of Bosch's triptych The Adoration of the Magi at Upton House, Warwickshire. The Christ Child sits in Mary's lap as the opulently dressed kings present their gifts. A semi-naked figure draped in pink robes stands in the doorway of a ramshackle hut – he may be the Antichrist. The presence of evil in an Epiphany scene might seem unusual, but it's characteristic of Bosch’s macabre and visionary approach.

See The Adoration of the Magi by Hieronymus Bosch


Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1528–1569)

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was one of the most significant artists from the Netherlands in the 1500s and his grisailles are extremely rare.

The Dormition of the Virgin can also be seen at Upton House in Warwickshire. This painting in 'grisaille' (shades of grey) shows the dying Virgin surrounded by huddled praying devotees. Her spiritual presence is conveyed by the intense white halo of light around her head.

See The Dormition of the Virgin

A very dark oils painting that is almost black and white depicting a person sitting up in bed, illuminated by candles surrounded by onlookers.
The Dormition of the Virgin by Pieter Bruegel the elder | © National Trust Images/John Hammond

El Greco

El Espolio (The Disrobing of Christ) by El Greco (1541–1614)

Upton House, Warwickshire

This vibrant and expressive painting shows the moment before Christ's robe is ripped from his body in preparation for his crucifixion. Despite the impending violence, Christ is transcendent. His scarlet robe – a striking jolt of colour – is a feat of compositional dynamism and pictorial virtuosity.

The painting is a smaller version of the Sacristy in Toledo Cathedral, both by Domenikos Theotocopoulos, better known as El Greco, the idiosyncratic Mannerist artist from Crete who lived and worked in Spain.

See El Espolio by El Greco

Hilliard and Rubens

An oil painting of Queen Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard
Queen Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard | © National Trust Images/

Nicholas Hilliard (c. 1547–1619)

This portrait of Elizabeth I can be seen at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire and appears to have been acquired by Elizabeth Talbot (‘Bess of Hardwick’), Countess of Shrewsbury. It was almost certainly on display at Hardwick in the Queen’s lifetime. The dress is embroidered with roses, irises and pansies along with insects, animals and fish. This unusual mixture of motifs from the natural world is typical of embroidery of the late Elizabethan period. It’s thought that Bess masterminded the design and possibly even worked on it herself.

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Isaac Oliver

Sir Edward Herbert of Cherbury by Isaac Oliver (c. 1613–4)

Powis Castle, Powys

The dashing Sir Edward Herbert was as famous for his courtly accomplishments as he was for his courage in battle when he sat for this elaborate cabinet miniature. With its unusual iconography and verdant landscape setting, the full-length miniature – seen at the top of this article – is flamboyantly and exquisitely rendered by Isaac Oliver.

French-born Oliver brought personality and life to his portraits, ultimately surpassing the work of his master, Nicholas Hilliard, goldsmith and miniaturist to Elizabeth I and James I.

Velázquez and Rembrandt van Rijn

Portrait showing a young boy stood next to two dogs
Prince Baltasar Carlos, Aged Six, as a Hunter by Diego Velázquez (1599–1660) | © National Trust Images

Diego Velázquez

Prince Baltasar Carlos was the cherished only son of King Philip IV of Spain and would have succeeded to the throne had he not died just before his 17th birthday. In this portrait the young prince is depicted in a hunting costume with a partridge dog and two Spanish greyhounds at his side. The understated eloquence and restrained grandeur of this portrait is typical of the work of Diego Velázquez, the celebrated master of Spanish painting.

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Aelbert Cuyp

View of Dordrecht from the north by Aelbert Cuyp (1620–1691)

Ascott, Buckinghamshire

Light is the dominant element in Aelbert Cuyp's work and this picture is undoubtedly the most spectacular manifestation of this talent in Dutch painting of the Golden Age.

The unusual format of this painting – it is nearly two metres wide – is exceptional for Cuyp and suggests it was made for a commission rather than for the free market.

See View of Dordrecht from the north by Aelbert Cuyp

Angelica Kauffman

Self-portrait of the artist hesitating between the arts of music and painting by Angelica Kauffman (1741–1807)

Nostell, West Yorkshire

This self-portrait presents the artist choosing between the discipline of painting (traditionally a male-dominated field) and the discipline of music (seen as a feminine convention).

Angelica Kauffman was born in Switzerland but settled in London in 1766. She was one of the most prominent artists in 18th-century England and one of only two founding female members of the Royal Academy.

An oil painting of three women in long flowing dresses. The one in the middle is wearing white and represents the artist herself. To her left is a figure in a red dress holding some musical notation on paper. To the right is a woman in blue carrying an artist's palette. Behind them is a mountainous scene.
Self-portrait of the Artist hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting by Angelica Kauffman at Nostell Priory, Yorkshire | © National Trust Images

George Stubbs

Hambletonian, rubbing down by George Stubbs (1724–1806)

Mount Stewart, County Down

This painting from the collection at Mount Stewart, County Down shows the celebrated racehorse Hambletonian being rubbed down after his great victory at Newmarket on 25 March 1799. A masterpiece of animal portraiture, this picture combines anatomical precision with painterly expression. It was commissioned by the horse's owner, Sir Henry Vane Tempest.

See Hambletonian, rubbing down by George Stubbs

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones

Love among the ruins by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833–1898)

Wightwick Manor, West Midlands

Two lovers in blue robes are seated together on a stone capital; at their feet is part of a broken column overgrown with a briar rose. This is among the finest of Edward Burne-Jones's late works, painted in 1894, four years before his death. It’s based on an earlier watercolour of 1870–3, but the muted colour, coupled with the wistful depiction of the ephemerality of love and youth, are typical of the older Burne-Jones.

An oil painting depicting a a young couple sat on a stone plinth with their arms around each other. The man wears a black velvet tunic while the woman wears a long blue dress. They are surrounded by ornate architecture with creeping plants with small pink flowers growing all over them.
Love among the ruins by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones | © National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Sir Stanley Spencer

The cycle of paintings at Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire by Sir Stanley Spencer (1891–1959)

Sir Stanley Spencer was commissioned to create 19 paintings in the Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire, and it's widely regarded as the artist's masterpiece. The painted vignettes recall Spencer's service as a medical orderly and later as a soldier on the Macedonian Front during the First World War.

In one scene, an officer is shown holding a map of Macedonia, while soldiers in the background are shown feasting on bilberries.The rendering of landscape and greenery typifies Spencer’s skill at painting landscape and still-life.

See Map Reading in the Sandham Memorial Chapel by Sir Stanley Spencer

Rex Whistler

Capriccio of a Mediterranean seaport by Rex Whistler (1905–1944)

Plas Newydd, Anglesey

Rex Whistler's great mural in the Dining Room at Plas Newydd, Anglesey, painted between 1936 and 1938, depicts the dramatic landscape of Snowdonia in a vast 'capriccio', an architectural fantasy encompassing elements of the mountains, sea and mythology. This detail shows the crown and trident of Neptune and his footsteps entering the room.

On completion, this mural was his most ambitious interior to date. At the other end of the mural (not visible here), Whistler included a young man sweeping up rose petals. This is a self-portrait, his last one before he was killed in action a few years later at Normandy.

See Capriccio of a Mediterranean seaport by Rex Whistler

Sevres Wine Cooler, showing nymphs worshipping the bust of Pan, from a service made for Louis XVI, dated 1792, in the Porcelain Lobby at Upton House, Warwickshire

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