A Baroque palace with one of the richest and best-documented picture and sculpture collections in the National Trust. Central figures in its creation were Algernon Percy (1602–1668), 10th Earl of Northumberland, and Charles (1662–1748) and Elizabeth Seymour (1667-1722), the 6th Duke and Duchess of Somerset. Later owners were Sir Charles Wyndham (1710–1763), 4th Baronet and 2nd Earl of Egremont, an avid collector of pictures and antique sculpture, and his son George O’Brien Wyndham (1751–1837), 3rd Earl of Egremont. The substantial portion of the collection, transferred to the National Trust in 1956-7, is exhibited in the State Rooms alongside additional works on loan from the Egremont Private Collection and Tate.
World-class holdings by Sir Anthony van Dyck and Sir Peter Lely were largely commissioned or acquired by the 10th Earl of Northumberland. Some of the finest van Dycks are arranged in the Square Dining Room and Little Dining Room, including the strikingly innovative group portraits of Northumberland, his first wife and daughter and of Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport and Lord George Goring, with page. Northumberland also acquired pictures from van Dyck’s posthumous studio, such as the unfinished equestrian portrait of Charles I. The spectacular paired portraits of Sir Robert Shirley and his wife Teresa, Lady Shirley, were later additions made by the 2nd Earl of Egremont.
Of the Lelys, the group portrait of Charles I’s three children is particularly interesting, having been commissioned by Northumberland in 1647 when the royal children were under his custody. As a Parliamentarian he was in a position to buy pictures from Royalist collections, for example the magnificent church interior by Hendrick van Steenwijck the Younger formerly in the Duke of Buckingham’s possession. Other recorded Flemish works from the Northumberland collection include portraits by Joos van Cleve and a St Sebastian by Gerard Seghers.
By 1764 the 2nd Earl of Egremont’s London residence, Egremont House, held over 200 old master pictures, including those inherited from the Northumberland collection. The majority were purchased by the 2nd Earl himself, either abroad, such as the other by Steenwijck the Younger or via agents in Italy, or through the London art market. Examples of the latter include The Card Players by Jan Massys, David Teniers’ ideal depiction of the Archduke of Austria’s picture gallery and Paul Bril’s Landscape with Troglodyte Goatherds. At his death, of the 299 pictures listed in the 2nd Earl’s collection over sixty were Flemish and Dutch. This collection was both depleted and expanded by the 3rd Earl who went on to acquire Landscape with a Common and Coppice, a collaboration between Meindert Hobbema and Adriaen van de Velde, an imaginary riverine scene by Aelbert Cuyp, Netherlandish panels attributed to Rogier van der Weyden and Bosch, and a portrait by Simon Verelst of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, which was purchased at the sale of the Italian painter and engraver, Giovanni Battista Cipriani.
Alice Rylance-Watson, Assistant Curator of Pictures and Sculpture, with contributions by other National Trust curators and staff members (April 2022)