Polesden Lacey's finest paintings
- Expert curated
Polesden Lacey houses an exceptional collection of paintings. It was created by two remarkable individuals – the self-made brewing magnate William McEwan MP and his daughter Margaret Greville DBE, the redoubtable hostess and last private owner of Polesden Lacey.
The collection at Polesden Lacey
William McEwan bought Polesden Lacey in 1906 for his daughter Margaret, who used it as a venue for entertaining rich and powerful guests in style. She left it to the National Trust in her will so that its art collection could be ‘open to the public at all times and…enjoyed by the largest number of people.'
The taste of father and daughter is strongly expressed at Polesden Lacey and demonstrates their delight in exquisite paintings by the Old Masters. The presence of so many exceptional pictures in this luxurious country house – nearly 100 in their collection – continues to produce a distinctly select, intimate and inviting impression.
Society hostess in an Edwardian age
This is Margaret, the last owner of Polesden Lacey. She stands before a gleaming cloth of gold in a dramatic hat and sweeping, silk-lined mantle. Carolus-Duran, painter of Parisian society ladies and demi-mondaines, painted Margaret in 1891. In the same year she married the Hon. Ronald Greville, one of the closest friends of the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII. The marriage added social standing to her riches, resulting in a long career as one of the great hosts of the age.
The Dutch pictures
Decorous or indecent?
A woman in a dazzling white gown delicately accepts the gallant address of a smiling officer in a richly appointed Dutch interior. Behind them, several more figures congregate around a table, one of whom plays the lute. For all the fine manners on display in this scene, all may not be quite as respectable as it first seems. Military men are generally up to no good in Dutch genre paintings and even music, evocative of lovemaking, carried disreputable overtones.
The National Trust has recently published 100 Paintings, a book showcasing key paintings from its vast collections. Four of those paintings can be seen at Polesden Lacey.
The Miraculous Founding of Santa Maria Maggiore
This picture depicts the beginnings of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Pope Liberius (left) and the patrician John (right) witness an unseasonable fall of snow as it gently describes the foundations of a great cruciform building on the ground. The Virgin Mary, who presides over the scene from heaven, had previously appeared to Liberius in a dream, instructing him to found a church on a miraculously revealed site.
Learn more about the remarkable pictures at Polesden Lacey by reading John Chu's picture guide
From the stunning décor in the gold Saloon to state-of-the-art conveniences, explore the Grevilles' house at Polesden Lacey, a luxurious house fit for royalty.
From her quiet childhood in Scotland, Margaret Greville climbed the social ladder to become one of the most popular socialites in the Edwardian era and owner of Polesden Lacey.