The collection at Powis Castle
The team at Powis Castle care for one of the world's great collections of art and historical objects. Visit the castle and you'll discover exceptional works of art including paintings, sculpture, furniture and textiles from Europe, India and East Asia. There are a few objects created closer to home too.
Every object has a story to tell
Discover eight of the most intriguing treasures below. They’re sure to help you gain deeper insight into what makes Powis Castle so special.
- Pietre dure table
- This large Roman pietre dure table dates to about 1580 and features a marble top inlaid with lapis lazuli and other semi-precious stones. Look carefully at the design to spot crickets, snails, birds and much more. Although other such pietre dure masterpieces survive in other British country-house collections, this is the only one that rests on its original Renaissance frame and stand, a masterpiece of carved and gilded wood. According to Herbert family legend, this table was a papal gift, and the unusual pear motifs at the end of the base suggest it was made for the Peretti family of Pope Sixtus V.Discover more
- Twelve Caesars
- These late 17th-century Italian busts are the earliest known surviving set of the Twelve Caesars in Great Britain. The set has been at Powis since at least 1704 and is made of Carrara marble and jasper. Each statue weighs about 150kg, so major structural work had to be carried out in the Long Gallery to ensure the floor could support them for many years to come.Search the collection online
- Roman Cat
- An unknown sculptor has shown extraordinary skill in crafting the life-like depiction of a cat that can be found on the Long Gallery. The cat has caught a snake beneath one paw, but its head is turned away to snarl at an approaching assailant, who is perhaps hoping to steal her prey. Made of marble, this sculpture was a gift from Robert Clive, Clive of India to his wife Margaret, who was particularly fond of cats. He purchased it during his grand tour in Rome where he reportedly told his agent to buy it 'Coute qui coute' (whatever the cost). Once thought to have been made for the grand tour market, this sculpture of crystalline Greek marble is likely to be Roman (100 BC – AD 200).See the Roman Cat online
- A View of Verona
- This masterpiece is by Bernardo Bellotto (c1745-7) nephew and assistant of Canaletto. It shows a view of Verona, looking upstream over the River Adige, with the Castel San Pietro in the middle distance, the Palazzo della Seta decorated with sixteenth century frescoes on the right, and anchored in the river are floating mills for grinding corn. The painting was purchased by Robert Clive (1725-1774), ‘Clive of India’, who had gained enormous personal wealth in India by helping to secure Diwāni rights for the East India Company in 1765. This allowed it to collect taxes for Bengal, Bihar and Orissa directly from local inhabitants, which drained the reserves of local authorities and the increasingly impoverished indigenous population.See the paintings in our collection
- Lady Henrietta Herbert by Joshua Reynolds
- The painting of Lady Henrietta Herbert, Countess of Powis (1758–1830) in the Oak Drawing Room is by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the leading portrait artist of the 18th century. A small engraving, produced shortly after the portrait was completed shows Lady Henrietta was originally painted with an elaborate hairstyle, but no hat, so it seems the painting was modified by a later artist as fashions changed. Henrietta married Edward Clive, son of Robert Clive (‘Clive of India’) in 1784 and when he was made Governor of Madras in 1798, she accompanied him to India. With a baggage train consisting of 14 elephants, 2 camels and about 750 attendants and soldiers, she undertook an extraordinary 1000-mile expedition of Mysore, accompanied by her two daughters and their governess, Anna Tonelli. Her husband's duties kept him in Madras.See the portrait of Lady Henrietta Herbert
- Sir Edward Herbert, later 1st Lord Herbert of Cherbury
- Full-length miniatures like this, exquisitely decorated with bright pigments and precious metals like silver and gold, are exceptionally rare. Sir Edward Herbert (1581/2–1648) was a courtier, soldier, diplomat and poet. His sumptuous costume of silver and blue matches the livery of his horse in the distance, and this, along with his heart-emblazoned shield, suggests he is resting after a royal jousting tournament. One of the most charming and beautifully painted portrait miniatures of the Jacobean age, this small picture is by the court artist Isaac Oliver (c.1565–1617), who specialised in such small-scale wonders. It was secured for the nation in 2016 with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, the late Hon. Simon Sainsbury, Winifred Hooper, and National Trust members and supporters.Discover the collection online
- A six panel Chinese screen (c1650-1700)
- The Chinese screen in the Blue Drawing Room, conserved in 2017, depicts the 80th birthday of Guo Ziyi (697-781). He was the most powerful of the Tang dynasty generals and is considered one of the greatest in Chinese history. He was adopted as an exemplary figure for later generations, with a life and career that incorporated good luck, wealth, fame, prosperity and longevity. Screens and other objects depicting his image would have been presented as good luck gifts, or in recognition of a successful career.An 80th birthday celebration
- The Reception of an Embassy
- Hanging in the Ballroom, ‘The Reception of an Embassy’ is without doubt the most enigmatic tapestry in the National Trust’s collection. An early tapestry, dating from 1545, it is important not just because of its rarity and great size, but also because it is thought to depict a real historic event, when ambassadors from Venice first made diplomatic overtures to the Mamluk rulers of Damascus. Damascus is identifiable because of the accurate portrayal of many architectural details, most notably the Great Umayyad Mosque. It was probably made in the southern Netherlands or France, and it is loosely based on a painting in the Louvre by an unknown Venetian artist, also created in 1545.See the tapestry online
Powis is a Welsh castle built by a Welsh prince, Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn (c1252). It survived wars and division to become one of the most prominent castles in Wales.
The Clive Museum features more than 300 items from India and the Far East in the largest private collection of its type in the UK. Find out more about its history.
Discover a paradise garden in Wales, with 300 hundred years of garden transformation providing many layers of history to explore.
After exploring the castle or traversing the terraces, refuel with a tasty treat from our Courtyard Café or take home a gift from the shop to help you remember a great day out.
Read our report on colonialism and historic slavery in the places and collections we care for and discover how we’re changing the way we approach these issues.