The collections at Petworth House and Park
Petworth House showcases some of the finest collections in the National Trust, with major works by the likes of Titian, van Dyck, Reynolds and Blake on display. Inside you'll also find treasures such as the oldest English terrestrial globe in existence, alongside collections of silver and ceramics. There are over 9,000 items at Petworth, many of which you can see whilst visiting.
Gallery of art
Many owners of Petworth House were collectors of fine art and these works remain on display here at Petworth as the centrepiece to your visit. The merging of art and interiors is what makes Petworth such a special place.
The paintings and sculptures here today are displayed in a similar way to when the 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751–1837) lived at Petworth, during a time that became known as Petworth's 'Golden Age'. During this period many artists, including painter JMW Turner, were invited to Petworth to take inspiration from the landscape and collections here.
The National Trust recently celebrated a Year of Treasures with the release of the book 125 Treasures. You can discover five of the featured artefacts at Petworth.
Please note some of the below items may not be on display during the winter as rooms are closed for conservation cleaning. Please check rooms open to view before travelling.
- Molyneux globe, North Gallery
- This is the first English terrestrial globe and only surviving first edition. It was made in 1592 by the mathematician Emery Molyneux (d.1598). It was probably owned by Henry Percy (1564–1632), 9th Earl of Northumberland, known as the ‘Wizard Earl’ because of his interest in alchemy and science. Look closely at this object's detailed engravings by Jodocus Hondius (1563–1612), which includes ships and fantastical sea monsters, as the globe is newly housed in a glass casing.More about the Molyneux globe
- The Petworth sgabelli chairs, Grand Stairs
- These nine chairs date from the first half of the 17th century and are based on Italian designs. During recent conservation work we discovered that the group of chairs have noted differences in the carved decorations and they include six with longer elm seats and three with shorter oak seats.More about the sgabelli chairs
- Emperor Nero as a boy, Little Dining Room
- In recent years this skilfully carved Carrara-marble statue has been identified as portraying the Roman Emperor Nero (AD 37–68) as a young boy. It’s one of only three examples still in existence, as many portraits of Nero were defaced or destroyed after his death. This sculpture was bought in 1763 by Charles Wyndham (1710–63), the 2nd Earl of Egremont. He paid thousands of pounds to British agents in Italy, who sourced ancient Greek and Roman sculptures from historic sites and private collections for him.More about the Nero statue
- Portraits by Sir Anthony van Dyck, Red Room
- Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) was one of the most acclaimed and influential European artists of the 17th century, famous for richly detailed portraits such as these. Van Dyck painted Sir Robert Shirley and his wife Lady Teresa Sampsonia in Rome in 1622. Robert was an English ambassador to the Persian Shah Abbas the Great (1571–1629) and travelled around Europe on business for the Shah.More about Sir Robert’s portrait
- A Vision of the Last Judgment by William Blake, North Gallery
- In 1808 Elizabeth Ilive (c.1769–1822), Countess of Egremont, commissioned the artist William Blake (1757–1827) to paint A Vision of the Last Judgement. The dramatic scene shows the moment when, in Christianity, humanity is judged before Christ. The subject may have been particularly relevant to Ilive as this was painted after the Countess separated from her husband. A prominent female figure in the top left of the painting surrounded by stars and children, has been interpreted as Ilive herself, and the seated male figure, sketching her, may represent Blake. Ilive certainly made a strong impression on the artist, who described her as ‘a mighty Soul in Beautys form’ and a ‘fortunate star’.More about A Vision of the Last Judgement
Other objects to look out for
JMW Turner’s two paintings of Petworth Park: These paintings were commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Egremont as part of a set of four. You can see them in the Carved Room.
Ceramics collection: Petworth houses some of the finest ceramics in the National Trust. Both the 2nd and 3rd Earls of Egremont were keen collectors; look out for their treasures.
St Michael Triumphing over Satan by John Flaxman, North Gallery: This sculpture was commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Egremont and was inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost. The life-size group took nine years to complete and was Flaxman's last great work. Apart from the spear, it was carved from a single block of marble. The square bay of the North Gallery was designed specifically to display this work, where it can still be seen today.
Caring for Petworth’s collections
During the winter months you may find that some of the rooms at Petworth are closed. This is so we can do vital conservation work to make sure that the collection items remain in the best possible condition.
It takes a team of conservation assistants five months to methodically clean, treat, record, cover, store and then return everything ready for reopening.
Other important work is carried out during this time, including moving and cleaning large pieces of furniture and polishing the floors.
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