Decoding the Country House Archive: Pictures and Papers at Petworth House

Essay by Emily Burns

Catalogues, inventories, picture lists and the second Earl of Egremont's 'Picture Book'


With a picture collection that exceeds six hundred items and boasting the largest Grand Tour assemblage of antique statuary to have remained in its original setting, Petworth House is among the finest country-house art collections in the British Isles. Over the nine hundred years of the house’s existence Petworth’s archives, including those relating to the picture collection, have grown steadily, and their cataloguing remains an ongoing project. The purpose of the present essay is to provide an overview of key archival material that is available on Petworth’s picture collection and to indicate what these sources tell us about the patrons and strategies for display. The essay will also provide a context to a better understanding of two important early documents that have been transcribed as part of the Petworth case study: the second Earl of Egremont’s log of his picture purchases between 1749 and 1763, and a list drawn up by Henry W. Phillips for the artist J. M. W. Turner of the paintings at Petworth during the third Earl's occupancy in 1835, with its accompanying letter of 1836 (see transcription here).

The Petworth House Archives

Like many such houses Petworth contains a composite of collections, accumulated by past owners and inhabitants over several centuries. The endeavour of piecing together the historic development of the collection and its hang requires a close study of archival sources, such as inventories, accounts, letters, diaries and wills. The most important of these are inventories, which are an invaluable resource for identifying and tracking the location of works of art within historic houses. For properties where surviving contemporary records are thin on the ground, the existence of an inventory enables a significant leap in understanding the history of a place and its contents, and the tastes and priorities of its owners.1

Fortunately, a number of records survive that help chart Petworth's picture collection over time. The majority of these sources are in the Petworth House Archives (PHA), owned by Lord Egremont and administered by the West Sussex Record Office (WSRO) in Chichester, though other material relating to the Petworth collection can be found in, for example, Alnwick Castle Archives and the British Library.2 The Petworth Archives are the largest collection in the care of the WSRO, and are still in the process of being catalogued. In 1877 the sixth report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission calendared papers from the Petworth House library,3 but little progress was made until the first of four volumes of The Petworth House Archives was printed in 1968.4 These, and the digital fifth volume, are now available to search online on the WSRO website.5 Catalogued documents may be consulted by appointment in Chichester. Although it is not possible to access the vast amount of uncatalogued records,6 all except the more recent material is accounted for and has been ‘summarily listed’.7

To date, over one hundred inventories of various sorts relating to Petworth House and associated properties have come to light. Many are not pertinent to the present project since they list only house linen, plate, furnishings or other possessions. However, about a fifth provide details about the picture and sculpture collection. In addition to official inventories, some informally documented accounts of pictures also survive, such as a list of picture purchases recorded in a notebook by the second Earl of Egremont. Few of these records have been transcribed and published, or analysed in depth as a group.

Early records

The earliest-known documents relating to Petworth's pictures concern the collection of a previous owner of Petworth House, Algernon Percy, tenth Earl of Northumberland (1602–1668), whose paintings make up the nucleus of the present collection. Three key archival sources have been transcribed in the appendices of an article by Jeremy Wood on the art collecting of this Earl; the first two are held by the British Library, and the third by Alnwick Castle.8 The first of these is a list of about fifty pictures made by the art connoisseur Richard Symonds during a visit in 1652 to ‘Suffolk House’ (subsequently renamed Northumberland House), the tenth Earl's grand riverside mansion in London.9 The Earl kept his most prestigious pictures at his London residence, and Symonds saw important portraits by Sir Anthony Van Dyck and Sir Peter Lely, which remain in the collection today, as well as paintings by respected Italian artists, including 'Venus lying along & Mars kissing her [...]', referring to the now-renamed Nymph and Faun, attributed to Titian (fig. 1),10 and Titian's famous The Vendramin Family.11

Nymph and Faun

Figure 1.
Attributed to Titian, Nymph and Faun, circa 1570. Oil on canvas. National Trust, Petworth House (NT 486193).

Digital image courtesy of National Trust / Andrew Fetherston. (All rights reserved)

Six years later the diarist John Evelyn recorded what he regarded as the highlights of the collection at Northumberland House, identifying a key painting only cursorily mentioned by Symonds – Del Sarto's Madonna and Child with Saint John and Three Angels (fig. 2)12 – and singling out works by or attributed to Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, Van Dyck, Giorgione and Lely:

Madonna and Child with Saint John and three Angels

Figure 2.
Andrea del Sarto, Madonna and Child with Saint John and three Angels, circa 1515. Oil on canvas. Petworth House.

Digital image courtesy of Petworth House. (All rights reserved)

I went to see the Ear[l]e of Northumberlands Pictures, whereoff that of the Venetian Senators was one of the best of Titians, & another of Andrea de Sarta, viz, a Madona, Christ, St. John & an old Woman &c: a St. Catharine of Da Vinci, with divers Portraits of V. Dyke, a Nativity of Georgioni: The last of our blessed Kings, & D: of Yorke by Lilly: A rosarie of flo: by the famous Jesuite of Bruxells & severall more.13

Although they give a good impression of the strengths of the collection, neither of these lists constituted an exhaustive and formal inventory of all the pictures on site. However, the next record of the pictures then in the Northumberland collection provides just this: an inventory and valuation made by the family's long-serving picture keeper, Symon Stone, in 1671 following the deaths of the tenth Earl of Northumberland and of his son Joceline Percy, eleventh Earl (1644–1670).14 The inventory lists and values the pictures at Northumberland House, appraised on 30 June 1671, but also the pictures at two other family seats: Syon House, appraised 10 July, and Petworth House, appraised 30 July. These inventories reveal that at this date only a small number of the pictures were located at Syon House, valued at about £100, and £750-worth were at Petworth, while sixty-seven pictures to the value of approximately £4000 were kept at the Earl's London home, Northumberland House, £1000 being the value given for Titian's The Vendramin Family. The inventory reveals that the collection was in keeping with elite court fashions of the Caroline era, having a high ratio of Italian pictures, especially of the Venetian school, as well as fine contemporary portrait paintings and a number of Netherlandish paintings. The inventory also provides one of the earliest references in an English collection to Claude Lorrain, identified as ‘Glaudilloraigne’.15

The order in which the pictures are listed in the 1671 inventories can be presumed to be approximately the order of their hang in the sequence of rooms through which the appraiser walked, although unfortunately there is no indication in the list of where the rooms divide. Nevertheless, a thematic scheme for the picture hang can be detected. For example, from the pictures recorded on the first folio of the Petworth inventory it can be deduced that the picture hang began with a number of works by sixteenth-century Venetian painters: two scenes each thought to be by Palma Giovane and Bassano were hung together, possibly as pendants, followed by a series of four portraits of men attributed to Tintoretto, Giorgione and Titian. These are followed by a series of near-contemporary portraits of the Earls and members of their family, and then what seems to be a looser grouping of landscapes, still lifes and some small head studies and subject pictures. The Van Dycks (and copies after) are broadly grouped together, close to portraits by Lely, as are more pictures by or after Titian. Although the precise location of the pictures is mostly left to conjecture, there are tantalising glimpses of the mode of display. One entry, for example, details exactly where some landscape paintings were hung within a particular room: ‘Two Landskipps over the Door in the Drawing Roome’. Another entry identifies a history painting displayed over a fireplace: ‘The Story to Heliodorus Whipping out of the Temple being a Chimney Peece’.16

The last surviving inventory of Petworth’s pictures in the seventeenth century is apparently unfinished and in poor condition (fig. 3). This inventory, which remains in the PHA and has not been published, records the number of pictures in rooms, but unfortunately does not identify them specifically. Among the passages that can be made out, ‘the Dining Roome’ contained ‘16 – Pict[ures]’; in ‘the Marble roome’ (Marble Hall) there were ‘tow [two] Pictures’; ‘1 picture’ was in ‘Her Graces Apartment’; another in ‘The Dressing roome’; and ‘2 pictures’ in ‘her Graces Cloasett’. No pictures are recorded in rooms such as ‘His Graces Apartment’, which instead has ‘3 peaces of red Guilt lether’ hangings, as do several other rooms, reflecting the contemporary preference for expensive wall hangings to decorate and insulate high-status interiors over relatively cheaper and smaller pictures.17

Inventory of goods in the House, and domestic quarters [at Petworth] in the time of the 6th Duke of Somerset Late 17th century

Figure 3.
Inventory of goods in the House, and domestic quarters [at Petworth] in the time of the 6th Duke of Somerset Late 17th century, post 1684. Petworth House (PHA 6268), p. 1

Digital image courtesy of Petworth House. (All rights reserved)

Eighteenth-century records

Almost eighty years later another cluster of picture lists and inventories was created. The first of these, an inventory of March 1749/50 in the PHA, gives some insight into the developing picture collection as it records the location of pictures, but does not identify them individually. For example, in ‘The Picture Room next to ye North Cloisters', all that is listed is ‘60 Pictures of different Sizes all in frames’.18

Yet another picture list made in 1749, to be found at Alnwick Archives, offers greater detail.19 Petworth House was by that stage the seat of Algernon Seymour, the seventh Duke of Somerset (1684–1750), who later that year became the first Earl of Egremont and inherited the earldom of Northumberland. The Alnwick picture list surpasses the previous records in listing the pictures by room, beginning with the Great Hall (Marble Hall). In some cases, the locations of the pictures within the rooms are also given: for example, in 'the King of Spains Drawing Room' (the White and Gold Room) were ‘Two Pictures over the Doors One of His grace of Somerset and the Other of Lord Percy and Lord Charles Seymour’.20 The descriptions of the pictures are, however, briefer than in the 1671 inventory, with several unidentified pictures such as 'Two Pictures of Lady's Unknown' in 'Her Graces Dressing Room'. The inventory is also not entirely trustworthy in its identification of certain pictures. For example, in the course of his transcription of the document, Peter Symonds has pointed out that the portrait of ‘Joceline Earl of Northumberland Lord High Admiral of England with His Lady and Daughter’ is in fact more likely to be Van Dyck’s portrait of Joceline's father, Algernon, tenth Earl of Northumberland with his wife Anne and daughter Catherine, which remains in the Petworth collection (fig. 4).21

Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland, his First Wife Lady Anne Cecil and their Daughter, Lady Catherine Percy

Figure 4.
Anthony van Dyck, Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland, his First Wife Lady Anne Cecil and their Daughter, Lady Catherine Percy, circa 1633-1635. Oil on canvas. National Trust, Petworth House (NT 486239).

Digital image courtesy of National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty. (All rights reserved)

Another record of particular interest, which can be read in conjunction with the 1749 picture inventory and picture list, is a notebook of painting acquisitions kept by Charles Wyndham (1710–1763) between March 1748/9 – shortly before he became second Earl of Egremont in 1750 – and his death.22 Known as ‘The Picture Book’, the notebook (see transcription) lists the Earl's frequent painting purchases, citing the title, artist and price as well as the date and sale at which they were bought. It is, therefore, a crucial source in the identification of the 150 new works that entered the collection through purchase rather than by commission during these years, even though the Earl had been buying on the London auction market since the early 1740s.23 The second Earl's accounts also throw light on his purchases in the preceding years: the first entry referring to a work of art was in 1735, for £4 4s to be paid to ‘Mr Hogarth the Painter’, meaning William Hogarth.24

Collectively, the acquisitions via purchase chart the Earl's evolving taste, as his preference shifted from Dutch paintings towards Italian works. It also reveals a few somewhat unexpected picture choices, which diverge from his usual pattern of collecting, notably ‘Two large Murillios from Rotterdam’, purchased for £168 5s. The Picture Book also provides useful economic data on the English art market at that time.25 Most of the works were purchased at sales in England, but in August 1752 ‘A Little Peice [sic] by Steenwyck’ was 'Bought at Antwerp' for £6 6s. Lord Egremont was also keen to have the latest imports from Italy, reporting on 18 July 1759 that he had bought ten pictures numbering some famous masters for £150 ‘From Rome Cavalier Goddard’, and on 10 March 1760 purchased ‘Eight Little Pictures From Italy’ from Matthew Brettingham the Younger for £70. One of the most celebrated works in the Petworth collection today, The Brussels Picture Gallery of the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, was bought in April 1756 for the large sum of £241 10s (fig. 5).26 This was the Earl's second most expensive acquisition after Carlo Maratta's The Martyrdom of St Andrew, which he purchased in February 1758 for £273. The writer and collector Horace Walpole alluded to the Earl’s over-spending of that same month in a letter to his fellow connoisseur, Sir Horace Mann.27 Yet, this was possibly too harsh a judgement since, while the Earl paid some high prices for masterpieces and his spending on individual works of art increased on average over the years, the majority of his picture purchases were under £40, and many were under £10.

The Brussels Picture Gallery of the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria

Figure 5.
David Teniers II, The Brussels Picture Gallery of the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, 1651. Oil on canvas. National Trust, Petworth House (NT 486159).

Digital image courtesy of National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty. (All rights reserved)

Inventories of Petworth House and Egremont House made in 1764, the year after the second Earl's death, reveal that he kept much of his family collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century pictures at Petworth and displayed the majority of his most fashionable old-master and contemporary pictures and recent purchases at his London residence, Egremont House.28 While the Petworth House inventory is reasonably detailed, the Egremont House inventory makes a feature of the picture collection, stating the number of pictures in each room followed by a 'Pictures in D[itt]o' section listing the works; for example, in the 'Front Dressing Room' there were ‘Twenty Six Pictures in Carv'd & gilt frames fix'd in their places’, all of which are then listed in the following ‘Pictures in the Front Dressing Room’.29 This reflects the perception of Egremont House as the prime location for displaying the best of the picture collection.

Following the sudden death of his father in 1763, George O'Brien Wyndham (1751–1837), aged just eleven, became the third Earl of Egremont. A list compiled by the antiquarian Sir William Musgrave entitled 'Portraits at Petworth' and dated 1775 indicates, perhaps unsurprisingly, that few changes were made to the contents and hang of the picture collection at Petworth House in the first decade of his earldom (fig. 6).30 Indeed, comparison of the 1764 inventory with Musgrave's 1775 list reveals, for example, that the Dahl portraits in the Beauty Room stayed as they had been,31 while the pictures in the Oak Room remained unchanged but for the omission of Van Dyck's Countess of Newport.32 Eight pictures were retained in the Carved Room, although Van Dyck's unfinished portrait of Charles I on horseback had been removed.33 In detailing only the portraits at Petworth, Musgrave's list was not a comprehensive picture inventory, yet the list was nonetheless a substantial reflection of the collection since many key pictures in the house during this period were portraits. Musgrave’s list is also of limited use in conveying any changes to the layout of, for example, the Marble Hall: it mentions the portrait of Philip Herbert, the fourth Earl of Pembroke, and the ‘Adm[ira]l Van Trump’, which in 1764 were hung ‘Over the 2 False Doors’, but does not reveal whether the pictures of ‘Calvin & Luther’, mentioned in the 1764 inventory, remained over the two other doors, nor whether ‘Molinass & Spinosa’ were still over the chimneys.34

'Portraits at Petworth' in Catalogue of Pictures Presented by Sir William Musgrave

Figure 6.
Sir William Musgrave, 'Portraits at Petworth' in Catalogue of Pictures Presented by Sir William Musgrave, 1775. The British Library (BL Add MS 5726 E (6) f.22).

Digital image courtesy of Emily Burns. (All rights reserved)

Musgrave made another list of the portraits at Petworth House ten years after the first.35 Unlike his 1775 list, it is not divided into sections by room, although the change in the order of the portraits indicates some rearrangement had taken place in the course of the decade – perhaps the impetus for an updated list.36 It is possible that the 1785 inventory begins in the rehung Red Room, given the continued presence of Charles Jervas’s copy after Van Dyck’s portrait of Henrietta Maria and Jeffrey Hudson as the first item on the list, and with Lely’s double portrait of the Duke and Duchess of York and his group portrait of three eldest children of Charles I following soon after.37 Yet it might be another room entirely, such as the South Gallery, where Van Dyck’s posthumous portrait of Henry Percy, the ninth Earl of Northumberland, had hung in 1775 near portraits of other close family members as well as a portrait of the Earl of Strafford and a group portrait of the Earl of Newport, Lord Goring and a page.38 Though the 1775 inventory indicates the Red Room had displayed a selection of visually arresting works by famous painters spanning a wide time frame, such as works by Holbein and Cornelius Johnson, as well as the Lelys already mentioned,39 the 1785 list shows a preference for the arguably more harmonious effect of grouping together the key works by famous artists. Thus, a cluster of Van Dycks, including the group portrait of Algernon Percy, tenth Earl of Northumberland with his wife and daughter, are followed by royal portraits painted by Lely40 – an appropriate sequence of the first Principal Painter in Ordinary to the monarch, and his successor in the post.

In 1794 the third Earl sold Egremont House in London and its contents, disposing of 192 lots at auction. The Christie’s sale catalogue reveals that the third Earl had kept his father’s collection at Egremont House mostly intact until that point: the sale included three plaster busts and 170 paintings, which amounted to most of the Italian pictures amassed by the second Earl.41 The dispersal of his father's immense and judiciously accumulated collection can be interpreted as a bold gesture on the third Earl’s part to symbolically renounce the second Earl's artistic imprint on the house, and make space in which to assert his own, very different, taste. The decision to reduce the art collections at his London residence, leaving those at Petworth intact, likewise signals a shift in priorities of artistic display from the town to the country.

A few years after the Egremont House sale, in 1798, another list detailing the portraits then at Petworth House was provided for Sir William Musgrave.42 The new list is ordered alphabetically according to the title – or in its absence the surname – of each sitter, beginning with portraits of Lady Charlotte Seymour, Countess of Aylesford, and of Lady Anne Carr, the Countess of Bedford.43 This method of organisation enables the reader to take stock readily of works that were by then at Petworth House, although it offers no insight into potential changes made to the picture hang. Not all artists’ names are cited, although among the recognisable masters, including the Van Dycks, Lelys, Dahls and Knellers, can be identified a portrait of George Grenville by a more recent addition to the canon, Sir Joshua Reynolds (fig. 7).44

The Right Hon. George Grenville MP

Figure 7.
Sir Joshua Reynolds and Studio, The Right Hon. George Grenville MP, circa 1767. Oil on canvas. National Trust, Petworth House (NT 486247).

Digital image courtesy of National Trust Images. (All rights reserved)

As lists of portraits rather than of all paintings present, the Musgrave documents have their limitations as a source of information concerning the Petworth picture collection during the second half of the eighteenth century. Yet, used in conjunction with other surviving picture lists, they give a good impression of the priorities of collecting, sale and display of pictures at Petworth in this period, as the focus changed from Egremont House in the city to Petworth House in the country, and broadly from the work of Italian masters to contemporary British painting.45

Nineteenth-century records

A number of records survive that document the contents and layout of the Petworth picture collection in the last years of the third Earl’s life. The hang itself appears to have been a moveable feast: the third Earl’s Estate Yard Accounts reveal that there was much movement of the art collection at Petworth House from 1791, and this was apparently still the case decades later, in 1827, when Thomas Creevey commented on the ‘immensity of pictures’, all ‘mixed up together, good and bad’, and that the Earl was ‘perpetually changing their places’.46 Even more specific details of the hang can be gleaned from gouache sketches of certain rooms made by J. M. W. Turner during his stay at Petworth in late 1827. For example, Turner’s sketch of the Red Room reveals that Van Dyck’s portraits of Lord and Lady Shirley were hung on either side of one door (fig. 8), while his picture of the south wall of the Square Dining Room provides a virtual map of the dense hang, dominated by Reynolds’s enormous Macbeth and the Witches.47

The Red Room

Figure 8.
Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Red Room, 1827. Gouache and watercolour on paper. Tate (D22683, Turner Bequest CCXLIV 21).

Digital image courtesy of Tate. (CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0)

An important record of the contents of the picture collection during the early nineteenth century is a notebook by the artist, picture cleaner and restorer Edward Holder of ‘Pictures Cleaned and Lined’ at Petworth ‘commenced July 29th 1833’.48 The notebook details the 306 pictures that had been cleaned, and a list of eighty-two pictures that had been lined, together with information on genre, size and date. At the end of the notebook is a page entitled ‘Some which I Cleaned &c. at the Earl of Egremonts, Petworth’, which appears to identify those pictures that Holder regarded as particular highlights, notably thirty-one pictures by Van Dyck, twenty-two by Reynolds and nine then attributed to Titian (fig. 9). Key early portraits by Holbein, Titian, Van Dyck, Kneller, and other Italian and Netherlandish old masters are listed alongside more recent additions by Hogarth, Reynolds, Romney, Stubbs, Gainsborough, Wilson, Northcote, Benjamin West and Thomas Phillips, reflecting the third Earl’s interest in collecting and patronage of modern and contemporary British artists.49 Some of the entries have an additional note providing the picture’s location in the house; this shows that the Marble Hall had many more pictures than previously, and that the North Gallery displayed a combination of contemporary and historic pictures, including Macbeth and the Witches.50 Eight small paintings by Adam Elsheimer, which had been purchased by the tenth Earl of Northumberland, are recorded as in the library.51 Sir Isaac Newton by Kneller was at that time in the ‘Vandycke Room’ along with Reynolds's Marquis of Granby, while Sir Robert Shirley and Lady Shirley were both by this stage located in the Red Room.52 The portraits in the Beauty Room have notes indicating which ones are whole or half length, and which canvases had been ‘turned behind’ or ‘turned up’ – as discussed by Tabitha Barber elsewhere in the present case study.53

‘Pictures Cleaned and Lined’ at Petworth 'commenced July 29th 1833'

Figure 9.
Edward Holder, ‘Pictures Cleaned and Lined’ at Petworth 'commenced July 29th 1833', Petworth House. MS digitised by West Sussex Record Office, CD 232 (original is cat. no. AM 861), p.1.

Digital image courtesy of Petworth House. (All rights reserved)

The rare glimpse provided by Holder of early conservation efforts on the picture collection and indications of the picture hang was followed a few years later by a thorough list of paintings and sculptures at Petworth assembled by the teenage artist Henry Wyndham Phillips (see transcription).54 Phillips was the youngest son of one of Lord Egremont’s favourite portrait painters, Thomas Phillips, and his middle name was chosen in honour of the Earl.55 The list of 532 objects and an appended plan of the principal apartments of Petworth was given by Phillips to Turner, another of the third Earl's ‘pet’ artists, in 1836. The manuscript’s accompanying letter of 15 January reveals exactly when the inventory was made: the ‘List of the Pictures at Petworth House which I made when I was there in the Autumn’ of 1835. The letter also indicates the importance of the picture list as a record of the display of the picture collection shortly before the third Earl’s death: ‘I believe my Catalogue is the only list of the Pictures as they now hang.’ Phillips also relates, ‘My father made [a list] some Years ago which he showed to Lord Egremont who has kept it ever since.’ Unfortunately, this earlier list cannot currently be traced.

The third Earl’s penchant for contemporary British painting is abundantly clear in Phillips’s list, as is his taste for Italian and Flemish Old Masters, both characteristics analysed in detail by Christopher Rowell in his monograph on Petworth House.56 The picture list begins with the North Gallery, which the Earl had extended twice between 1824 and 1827 to better accommodate his expanding picture and sculpture collection. In this highly curated space, pictures by favoured contemporary artists such as Turner, Thomas Lawrence, Thomas Phillips and David Wilkie hang in the company of paintings by artists from historic European schools, such as Bronzino, Teniers, Matsys and Rubens. The newly enlarged and re-decorated Carved Room likewise featured a rich mix of pictures by leading artists from the sixteenth century to the present day, including pictures by Holbein, Cornelius Johnson, Van Dyck, Lely and Wissing, alongside more recent eighteenth-century works by Reynolds, and contemporary pictures by Thomas Phillips, George Clint, Charles Robert Leslie and, forming the centrepiece, four recent landscapes commissioned from Turner.57

The third Earl died on 11 November 1837 and left no legitimate heir, so his titles were passed to his nephew, George Francis Wyndham, fourth Earl of Egremont (1786–1845). Petworth House, however, passed to the eldest of the third Earl’s illegitimate children, Colonel George Wyndham (1787–1869), who, in 1859, was raised to the peerage as the first Baron Leconfield. After the third Earl's death an inventory was duly made of the 624 paintings at Petworth House, as well as sculpture and books.58 Together, Phillips’s 1835 list and the 1837 inventory reveal the distribution of pictures within Petworth House in the last years of the third Earl’s life. Around this time also, the Reverend Thomas Sockett, Anglican Rector of Petworth, began compiling a series of catalogues of the Earl’s art collections.59 Sockett’s first catalogue of paintings at the late Earl’s residences Petworth, Grosvenor Place and East Lodge, Brighton, was produced in 1837.60 A more selective catalogue appeared the following year, described as ‘of the pictures of Modern British Masters in the Gallery at Petworth’ and ‘of the works of sculpture by Modern British Sculptors’, highlighting the strength of Petworth's contemporary art collection.61 A set of plans of the picture hang at Petworth in c.1837 was quite probably made by Sockett, and he was certainly responsible for draft plans showing the position of the pictures in Petworth House sometime between 1839 and 1842 (fig. 10), and perhaps also that of c.1845.62 Following on from Sockett's work, a number of inventories, plans and picture-cleaning records survive for the 1850s and later in the century, but these are mostly superseded in their usefulness by the official catalogues of the collection that were produced from 1850 onwards.

Draft plans of picture hang

Figure 10.
Thomas Sockett, Draft plans of picture hang, circa 1839-42. Petworth House (PHA 7518), p. 26.

Digital image courtesy of Emily Burns. (All rights reserved)

Picture catalogues

The first comprehensive account of the Petworth collection was published by the German art historian Gustav Friedrich Waagen, who had visited Petworth House in 1850 and produced his volumes of descriptions of British collections in 1854 and 1857.63 The Petworth picture collection’s first official printed catalogue was published by the house's owner, Colonel Wyndham, in 1856.64 The Petworth Archives hold a draft manuscript by the local amateur naturalist and writer Arthur Edward Knox of ‘Notes and Memoranda for a biographical and descriptive catalogue of the pictures and sculpture in Petworth House’ (fig. 11), which formed the basis of the 1856 catalogue.65 The catalogue lists 626 pictures and their location, and provides an index of portraits and another of painters.66 Several copies of the catalogue with contemporary or near-contemporary annotations exist. One of these, held by the Heinz Library and Archive at the National Portrait Gallery, is inscribed as presented to the Gallery by one of its founders, the Earl of Stanhope, on 11 December 1873. The copy is extensively annotated with notes and sketches of the portraits made in the early twentieth century by Gallery Director James Milner.67

Draft of notes and memo for a catalogue of pictures at Petworth House

Figure 11.
A. E. Knox, Draft of notes and memo for a catalogue of pictures at Petworth House, circa 1850. Petworth House (PHA 7519), p. 8.

Digital image courtesy of Emily Burns. (All rights reserved)

Catalogue of the Petworth Collection of Pictures in the Possession of Lord Leconfield (London: The Medici Society, Ltd)

Figure 12.
C H Collins Baker, Catalogue of the Petworth Collection of Pictures in the Possession of Lord Leconfield (London: The Medici Society, Ltd), 1920. Petworth House (A3 1856). Two hundred and fifty copies printed for private circulation, of which this is No. 37. Paul Mellon Centre

Digital image courtesy of Martine La Roche. (All rights reserved)

In 1920 the respected art historian Charles Henry Collins Baker published an updated picture catalogue with fuller entries for Charles Wyndham, third Baron Leconfield (1872–1952), who had inherited Petworth in 1901.68 A lavishly illustrated publication for private circulation (fig. 12), Collins Baker’s Petworth catalogue included a greater number of pictures than any previous catalogue, about 650 in total, arranged alphabetically by artist, plus an index of portraits. Three pictures recorded in the ‘old Catalogue’ (meaning the 1856 catalogue) could not be traced.69 Collins Baker’s catalogue marked an important moment in the history of the collection, as seven years after its publication the third Lord Leconfield sold a number of prize pictures, including Portrait of a Young Woman with a Fan by Rembrandt (fig. 13), Hans Holbein’s Portrait of Derick Berck and Frans Hals’s Portrait of Claes Duyst van Vorhout, all now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Vendramin Family by Titian, now in The National Gallery, London.70

Portrait of a Young Woman with a Fan

Figure 13.
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), Portrait of a Young Woman with a Fan, 1633. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (43.125).

Digital image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Public domain)


This study has shown that archival records are an invaluable resource for navigating the complex history of a picture collection that, across many generations and different properties, found its way to Petworth House. The varied information provided by these sources, which include inventories, picture lists and the second Earl's Picture Book, helps to chart the constantly morphing make-up and hang of the collection. The records give precious insights into the agency of its owners in choices of acquisition, de-acquisition and changing display. They similarly inform our understanding of the artistic preferences and priorities of the collection’s owners. Had it not been for the survival of the second Earl’s Picture Book of purchases, along with the Christie's sale catalogue, his significant role as a picture collector would have continued to be overlooked in favour of the prolific arts patronage of his long-lived son. Likewise, inventories made shortly before and after the third Earl’s death provide a time-capsule of Petworth’s picture collection at the close of its so-called ‘golden age’, before several of the acknowledged jewels of the collection were dispersed and many of those that remained changed ownership.

Faced with heavy death duties, the third Lord Leconfield gave Petworth to the National Trust in 1947. In 1954, two years after his death, an exhibition of thirty-five pictures and other works of art selected from Petworth House was staged for a month in London by Messrs Wildenstein, which showcased the quality of the collection.71 Lord Leconfield’s nephew, John Wyndham (1920–1972), negotiated the additional gift, in 1957, of part of the house's art collection to the National Trust in lieu of inheritance tax (the first instance of what is now a commonplace arrangement).72 The Petworth art collection was thus divided between two owners: the National Trust – on behalf of the nation – and Lord Leconfield, who continued to live in part of the house. In a supplement to the Burlington Magazine in 1969 Francis St John Gore listed the pictures at Petworth, marking their ownership and distribution between the private and public parts of the house.73 St John Gore grouped the pictures by national ‘school’, which highlighted preferences of later collectors, including the third Earl of Egremont, as well as the change in weighting of the collection since the time of the tenth Earl of Northumberland. Works by painters of the British school take up one-and-a-quarter pages, those by Dutch and Flemish half a page, and the remainder – French, German, Italian and Spanish74 – occupy only the final quarter page. The list is nevertheless impressive: though some key pictures collected by the tenth Earl of Northumberland and recorded at Northumberland House in the mid-seventeenth century, such Titian's The Vendramin Family and Lely's double portrait of Charles I with James, Duke of York, had by then left Petworth,75 other iconic paintings acquired in this period by Titian, Holbein, Van Dyck, Teniers and Lely remain, joined over the years by works by Kneller, Dahl, Reynolds, Phillips and Turner, among other masterpieces. While a small number of the finest pictures in the Petworth collection (and arguably in Britain) were at that stage located in the private quarters of Lord Leconfield, such as Van Dyck’s masterpiece Anne Carr, Countess of Bedford (fig. 14) and Del Sarto’s The Madonna with Saint John and Angels,76 the great proportion of the house’s picture collection was by then on show to National Trust visitors.

Anne Carr, Countess of Bedford

Figure 14.
Anthony van Dyck, Anne Carr, Countess of Bedford, circa 1638. Oil on canvas. Petworth House.

Digital image courtesy of Petworth House / Photo: Tom St. Aubyn. (All rights reserved)

The first Baron was succeeded by his son, Max Wyndham, second Baron Egremont (b. 1948) in 1972, who continues to live at Petworth with his wife, Caroline, Lady Egremont (née Nelson). Together, the National Trust, represented by the House and Collections Manager, and Lord and Lady Egremont work closely to enable a sensitive approach to the display of Petworth’s precious picture collection. Today, many of the house's pictures can be seen displayed in historic groupings, based on knowledge of past arrangements ascertained from unearthed archival records. For the purposes of historical accuracy this necessitates the display of works from both the National Trust collection and the Egremont collection alongside each other.77 Part public and part private, they continue to be contained under one roof, in rooms that have been carefully extended and re-designed over the centuries to showcase their artistic riches.


  • Screenshot 2020-07-22 at 17.15.39

    Dr Emily Burns is a curator and art historian specialising in British art and collecting, with a particular interest in portraiture. She is currently Editor of the forthcoming Jordaens Van Dyck Journal, and was previously Vivmar Curatorial Fellow at the National Gallery (2018–20) and Assistant Curator at the National Portrait Gallery (2013–18).

    Emily holds a doctorate on art and collecting in England during the Civil War and Interregnum, c.1640–1660 (University of Nottingham, 2018), and remains engaged in research into mid-seventeenth-century painting. She was Co-convenor of the Paul Mellon Centre's Early Career Researcher Network between 2018 and 2020, and has contributed essays and catalogue entries on Trewithen House, Raynham Hall, and Petworth House for the Art & the Country House project.


  1. For a more developed discussion of the important role of inventories in art-historical research, see Maurice Howard, ‘Inventories, Surveys and the History of Great Houses 1480–1640’, Architectural History, vol. 41, SAHGB Publications Limited, 1998, pp. 14–29.

  2. The Petworth House Archive documents are catalogued under PHA. The records of the family estates in other counties such as Yorkshire and Cumberland are cared for in a separate archive at Cockermouth Castle. See (accessed 7 January 2019).

  3. Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Sixth Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, vol. 5, London: HMSO, 1877–8.

  4. Francis W. Steer and Noel H. Osborne, eds, The Petworth House Archives, vol. 1, Chichester: The West Sussex County Council, 1968; Alison McCann, ed., The Petworth House Archives, vols 2, 3 and 4, Chichester: The West Sussex County Council, 1980, 1997 and 2003. Furthermore, for an overview of items of Irish interest found in the Petworth Archives, see A. Mac Lochlainn, ‘Papers at Petworth House’, Analecta Hibernica, vol. 23, The Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1966, pp. 303–5.

  5. West Sussex Record Office Online Catalogue, (accessed 7 January 2019).

  6. At the time of the fourth volume in 2003 it was approximated that the Historical Manuscript Commission and the four extant catalogues had catalogued only 20 per cent of the total archive. The old estate system of twenty-nine manuscript volumes amounted to another 30 per cent. McCann, 2003, p. vi.

  7. The National Archives Catalogue Description for Petworth House Archives, (accessed 7 January 2019).

  8. Jeremy Wood, ‘Van Dyck and the Earl of Northumberland: Taste and Collecting in Stuart England’, in S. Barnes and A. Wheelock, eds, Van Dyck 350, Studies in the History of Art 46, Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1994, appendices I, II and III, pp. 303–8. Another key and slightly earlier study analysing the inventories and lists that record the acquisitions of the tenth Earl of Northumberland as well as those of the second Earl of Egremont is: Francis St John Gore, ‘Old Masters at Petworth’, Studies in the History of Art, vol. 25, Symposium Papers X: The Fashioning and Functioning of the British Country House, Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1989, pp. 121–31.

  9. Richard Symonds’s list of pictures at Northumberland House, 1652, British Library, Egerton 1636, ff. 91v–94r. Northumberland House, previously known as Suffolk House, was demolished in 1874.

  10. National Trust, Petworth House, NT 486193.

  11. National Gallery London, NG4452.

  12. In the collection of Lord Egremont at Petworth House.

  13. John Evelyn’s account of the pictures at Northumberland House, 9 June 1658, BL Add MS 78323, transcribed in E. S. de Beer, ed., The Diary of John Evelyn, London: Everyman, 2006, p. 357. In addition to The Vendramin Family, the pictures Evelyn describes include: The Madonna with Saint John and Angels by Andrea del Sarto, c.1515, collection of Lord Egremont at Petworth House; and Charles I with James, Duke of York by Peter Lely, 1647, collection of the Duke of Northumberland at Syon House.

  14. Inventory of pictures at Northumberland House and Petworth House made by Symon Stone, 1671, the Archives of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle (henceforth ‘Alnwick Castle’), 72, MS 107, GC26. Published in Wood, 1994, pp. 304–8, appendix III. The record is not at Petworth because possession of the archives instead followed the family line of the Earls of Northumberland to Alnwick Castle. The painter and picture keeper for Northumberland, Symon Stone, was the same ‘Stone who coppys’ who had led Richard Symonds on his tour in 1652, BL Egerton 1636, f. 91v.

  15. Noted in Gore, 1989, p. 124, and n. 9.

  16. ‘Pictures Appras'd att Petworth by Mr. Symon Stone the 30th of July 1671’, Alnwick Castle 72, MS 107, GC26, f. 74v.

  17. Inventory of goods in the house, and domestic quarters [at Petworth] in the time of the sixth Duke of Somerset (no heading or title page; apparently unfinished), late seventeenth century, post 1684, PHA 6268.

  18. Inventory of the Household goods of His Grace the late Duke of Somerset, March 1750, PHA 6263 (facsimile: MP 6626), f. 6.

  19. Pictures in His Grace the Duke of Somerset's Seat at Petworth in Sussex, Alnwick Castle, Sy: H/IV/1/g. The MS has been transcribed and annotated by Peter Symonds (then of National Trust, now of Royal Collection Trust), 5 November 2015. The unpublished transcription is kept at Petworth House.

  20. The first picture of ‘His grace of Somerset’ may be that of Algernon Seymour, seventh Duke of Somerset (1684–1750) by John Vanderbank (NT 485111), which remains in the Egremont Collection at Petworth House. The second picture is an unidentified double portrait of the seventh Duke’s father, Charles Seymour, sixth Duke of Somerset (1662–1748), known as ‘The Proud Duke’ (depicted alone in a portrait by John Closterman in the Egremont Collection at Petworth House, NT 486185) with 'Lord Percy', probably his brother Lord Percy Seymour (1696–1721). Alternatively, the 'Lord Percy' might be Hugh Percy, later first Duke of Northumberland (1714–1786) who, to ensure the Percy inheritance, had changed his surname from Smithson to Percy on his marriage to the seventh Duke of Somerset's daughter, Lady Elizabeth Seymour, in 1740, and inherited the title of Earl of Northumberland by special remainder in 1749.

  21. Peter Symonds, unpublished transcription of 1749 Petworth House picture inventory in Alnwick Archives, Alnwick Castle, Sy: H/IV/1/g, transcribed on 15 November 2015, p. 1, fn 10. The portrait is inventory number NT 486239.

  22. List of pictures bought [by the second Earl of Egremont], giving prices and vendor, 1749–1763, PHA 5742. Transcribed by Rodolfo Rodriguez as part of this case study.

  23. This is founded on an examination of sale catalogues preceding 1748. Gore, 1989, p. 129.

  24. PHA 7480 (15 March 1735). This picture has not yet been matched up with present works at Petworth or elsewhere, and, indeed, Christopher Rowell states that ‘only two rather second-rate copies after Hogarth remain at Petworth’. However, it is here suggested that the Hogarth in question is that recorded in the Wyndham family collection in Ireland: Elizabeth Einberg’s catalogue of Hogarth's paintings lists two portraits of men who were potentially from the Wyndham family, one of which remains in a Wyndham family collection in Ireland but was acquired in 1801 as ‘Hogarth. Mr. Wyndham, in Vol. II engraved’ for £2 8s. Christopher Rowell, Petworth: The People and the Place, London: National Trust, 2012, p. 54; Elizabeth Einberg, William Hogarth: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven and London: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press, 2016, pp. 20–2, cat. nos 5 and 6.

  25. There are also several lists and documents in Petworth House Archives relating to the second Earl of Egremont’s antique sculpture acquisitions during the 1750s and 1760s.

  26. NT 486159.

  27. ‘You would have been amazed, had you been here at Sir Luke Schaub's auction of pictures ... the collection was indubitably not worth four thousand pounds. It has sold for near eight! ... In short, there is Sir James Lowther, Mr. Spencer, Sir Richard Grosvenor, boys with twenty and thirty thousand a year, and the Duchess of Portland, Lord Ashburnham, Lord Egremont and others with near as much, who care not what they give. I want to paint my coat and sell it off my back – there never was such a season.’

  28. ‘An Inventory of ye firneture belonging to the Rt. Honble the Earl of Egremont at Egremont House Picadilly London’, 1763, PHA 6267 (facsimile: MP 6624); ‘An Inventory of the Firneture belonging to the Rt. Honble the Earl of Egremont at Petworth in Sussex’, with inventory of old china at Petworth in 1772 inserted, 1764 and 1772, PHA 6266 (facsimile: MP 6625).

  29. PHA 6267 (facsimile: MP 6624), ff. 6–7.

  30. ‘Portraits at Petworth’, 1775, in Catalogue of Pictures Presented by Sir William Musgrave, BL Add MS 5726 E (6) ff. 22–7. William Musgrave was a print collector and antiquarian of British biographical history. His collected papers, which include various lists and indexes of engraved and painted portraits, were bequeathed to the British Museum and are now in the British Library collections. The papers referred to as ‘Musgrave's Lists’ are inventories recording 7806 painted portraits kept in public buildings and private houses during the late eighteenth century, which Musgrave anticipated would create an archive of images that would fill gaps in English biographical history – a cause that gained momentum into the next century and that culminated in the opening of the National Portrait Gallery in 1856. Though solicited by Musgrave, the lists were written by other individuals who approached the task with varying levels of diligence, and Musgrave found it necessary to check, annotate and correct the documents himself. The lists have been addressed in detail by Arline Meyer: ‘Sir William Musgrave’s “Lists” of Portraits; With an Account of Head-Hunting in the Eighteenth Century’, Walpole Society, vol. 54, 1988, pp. 454–502.

  31. PHA 6266 and BL Add MS 5726 E (6) f. 25r.

  32. PHA 6266 ff. 2r–3r and BL Add MS 5726 E (6) ff. 22r–23r. NT 486238.

  33. PHA 6266 f. 3r and BL Add MS 5726 E (6) f. 23r. NT 486181.

  34. PHA 6266 f. 2r and BL Add MS 5726 E (6) f. 22r.

  35. ‘Petworth – seat of E. of Egremont. 1785’, BL Add MS 6391, ff. 201–2.

  36. For more information on Musgrave's lists and his collecting process, see Meyer, 1988, pp. 454–502.

  37. BL Add MS 6391, f. 201r; BL Add MS 5726 E (6) f. 25r. NT 486190; C. H. Collins Baker, Catalogue of the Petworth Collection of Pictures in the Possession of Lord Leconfield, London: The Medici Society, 1920, p. 61, no. 433; NT 486192.

  38. ‘Portraits at Petworth’, 1775, in Catalogue of Pictures Presented by Sir William Musgrave, BL Add MS 5726 E (6) f. 26r. NT 486223; NT 486248; NT 486243.

  39. BL Add MS 6391, f. 201r; BL Add MS 5726 E (6) f. 25r. King Edward VI by Holbein (NT 486190); Lord Chief Justice Coke attributed to Cornelius Johnson, picture untraced but two prints after exist at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk (NT 1396981.3 and NT 1396981.4).

  40. BL Add MS 6391, f. 201r; NT 486239.

  41. Property of ‘A Nobleman’, Christie’s sale 7–8 March 1794 (Lugt 5166).

  42. ‘Painted Portraits in Petworth ho. the seat of the E. of Egremont’, book dated ‘Nov 1798’ in pencil, BL Add MS 6391, ff. 208–11. The pencil addition may have been made by the same hand as the inventory, or might be one of Musgrave's fastidious annotations.

  43. Charlotte Seymour, Countess of Aylesford by Enoch Seeman: Collins Baker, 1920, p. 386; Anne Carr, Countess of Bedford, Egremont Collection at Petworth House.

  44. BL Add MS 6391, f. 208v. The portrait (NT 486247) had been left to the third Earl of Egremont by his uncle, Percy Wyndham O'Brien, Earl of Thomond. For more detail on the picture's provenance, see (accessed 7 January 2019).

  45. The third Earl’s favourite painters were reputed to be the ultimate Italian Old Master, Raphael and, interestingly, Hogarth, who was a non-contemporary British painter whose work was collected by his father. C. R. Leslie recorded that the Earl had said to him, ‘I look upon Raphael and Hogarth as the two greatest painters that ever lived.’ Tom Taylor, ed., Autobiographical Recollections by the Late Charles Robert Leslie, RA, 2 vols, London: John Murray, 1860, vol. 1, p. 105.

  46. Petworth Estate Yard Accounts and Creevey MSS (18 August 1828), private collection, both cited in Rowell, 2012, p. 75.

  47. D22683, Turner Bequest CCXLIV 21 and D22770, Turner Bequest CCXLIV 108. Sir Robert Shirley (NT 486169); Teresia Khan, Lady Shirley (NT 486170); Macbeth and the Witches (NT 486153). For more on Turner's work for the third Earl and his gouaches of the house and estate, see Martin Butlin, Mollie Luther and Ian Warrell, Turner at Petworth: Painter and Patron, London: National Trust and Tate Gallery, 2002.

  48. ‘Pictures Cleaned and Lined’ at Petworth, 1833–1836, MS in private collection, digitised by West Sussex Record Office, CD 232 (original is cat. no. AM 861). Yorkshire-born artist and picture restorer Edward Holder was the ‘Grandfather’ Holder responsible for cleaning the most important pictures at Petworth, as well as being the first of four generations of his family to do restoration work on the Nostell Priory collection. The artist Thomas Phillips spread an apparently unfounded rumour that Holder had done damage to Laban by Claude Lorrain (Dulwich Picture Gallery, DPG205) while cleaning it, and there is a long prose passage in this present manuscript on the subject. See Anthony Blunt, ‘Petworth Rehung: The Restoration and Rehanging of the Petworth Collection 1952–53’, National Trust Studies 132, 1980, p. 122. Holder was the founder of a family line of picture restorers: his sons Edwin and Henry continued his business, while William set up on his own. William's son, William Boulter Holder, also became a picture restorer, as well as his grandson, William Addison Holder, who was in turn followed by his own son, Roy Vallance. For further information on Holder and his family, see Jacob Simon, ed., British Picture Restorers, 1600–1950,, updated September 2018 (accessed 7 January 2019).

  49. For extended analysis of the third Earl’s collecting practices and tastes, see Rowell, 2012, ch. 5, pp. 68–87.

  50. NT 486153. No.175 in Holder’s notebook.

  51. NT 486229–36. Nos 109–16 in Holder's notebook.

  52. Egremont Collection, Petworth House; NT 486197; NT 486169; NT 486170. Nos 292, 289, 266 and 267 respectively in Holder's notebook.

  53. Holder's catalogue nos 279–85 and 224, plus 185 and 189 – ‘A Magdalene’ by Lucas van Leyden.

  54. Catalogue of the pictures in Petworth House, the seat of the Earl of Egremont ... to which is prefixed a view of the mansion, a private lithographic print, from a drawing by Mrs. Phillips, and subjoined a plan of the principal appartments, by Henry Wyndham Phillips, Thomas Mann. Baynes, Burrell Lady, Twiner (Recipient.) Mr, 1835, National Art Library, Victoria & Albert Museum, MSL/1872-4-11. Transcribed by Rodolfo Rodriguez as part of the present case study.

  55. Henry W. Phillips was trained as artist by his father, and worked as a portrait painter. In his will Thomas Phillips left all his painting materials to Henry, and permitted him to use his painting rooms (8 George Street, Hanover Square) until the age of twenty-five, though in the event he lived there until his death. For more on father and son, see Peach, Annette, ‘Phillips, Thomas (1770–1845), portrait painter’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2008, (accessed 7 January 2019).

  56. Rowell, 2012, pp. 75 and 81.

  57. The four Turners are NT 486626, NT 486627, NT 486628 and NT 486629.

  58. Inventory of paintings, sculpture and books at Petworth House (also includes inventory of plate, plated goods, china and glassware), 1837, PHA 11314 (facsimile: MP 6628).

  59. The Anglican Rector Thomas Sockett was a key figure at Petworth during the early nineteenth century. His association with the Wyndham family began as a tutor to the future third Earl and his sister, Elizabeth, and he went on to continue as an aide to the third Earl and his family, based at Petworth but also overseeing the Earl’s other houses in Brighton and London. He wrote a diary between 1805 and 1807, and many of his letters and business papers are in the Petworth House Archives. These have been analysed and published by Sheila Haines and Leigh Lawson in Poor Cottages & Proud Palaces: The Life and Work of the Reverend Thomas Sockett of Petworth 17771859, Hastings: The Hastings Press, 2007. See pp. 151–4 for specifics of Sockett’s work at Petworth House and other houses.

  60. Lists of sculpture and pictures at Petworth House, in connection with Thomas Sockett’s catalogue, 1837 and 1838, PHA 11035.

  61. ‘Catalogue of the pictures of Modern British Masters in the Gallery at Petworth’ and ‘of the works of sculpture by Modern British Sculptors’ by Thomas Sockett, c.1838, PHA 11049.

  62. Plans of the picture hang in Petworth House, c.1837, PHA 11051; draft plans showing the position of the pictures in Petworth House, compiled by Rev. Thomas Sockett, c.1839–45, PHA 7518; notes on the arrangements of pictures at Petworth House, includes a list of pictures copied from the 1764 inventory, c.1845, PHA 9514.

  63. Gustav Friedrich Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss., &c., trans. Lady Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake, 3 vols, London: John Murray, 1854; Gustav Friedrich Waagen, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, London: John Murray, 1857.

  64. George Wyndham, first Baron Leconfield, Catalogue of Pictures in Petworth House, Sussex, London: privately printed by Woodfall & Kinder, 1856.

  65. Draft of ‘Notes and Memoranda for a biographical and descriptive catalogue of the pictures and sculpture in Petworth House’, compiled by A. E. K[nox], c.1841–59, PHA 7519. Knox was a local Sussex gentleman who was an amateur naturalist and ornithologist. As well as compiling material on Petworth’s art collection, he published three books on natural science subjects (1849; 1850; 1872) and was one of the founders of the British Ornithological Union in 1858.

  66. ‘The Catalogue does not include the Collection of Pictures at Colonel Wyndham’s town residence, nor those at East Lodge, Brighton. Such as are marked “London” have lately been removed from Petworth to Grosvenor Place’, Wyndham, Catalogue of Pictures in Petworth House, xxv.

  67. Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery, Petworth House A3 1856. I am grateful to Erika Ingham and the archive team for investigating the authorship of the drawings and annotations, which were previously incorrectly catalogued as being by the Gallery’s first Director, Sir George Scharf.

  68. Collins Baker, 1920, passim. Collins Baker was a self-taught scholar of art who made a significant contribution to the discipline in England through his writings, such as his pioneering book Lely and the Stuart Portrait Painters (1912), and his work as Surveyor of the King's Pictures (1928–34), among other prestigious positions.

  69. These were cat. no. 559: Portrait of a Child (Mrs King); no. 561: Elizabeth, Countess of Egremont, by Phillips; and no. 564: A Jacobean Lady.

  70. Duveen, London and New York, 1927–8. Colnaghi, London and New York, 1928. Met 43.125; 49.7.29; 49.7.33; NG4452.

  71. The exhibition catalogue draws on entries from Collins Baker's picture catalogue. Loan Exhibition of Pictures and Works of Art from Petworth House, 3 February – 6 March 1954, exhibition catalogue, London: Messrs Wildenstein, 1954.

  72. John Wyndham was created first Baron Egremont in 1963, before he inherited the title of sixth Baron Leconfield from his father, the fifth Baron.

  73. St John Gore, ‘Pictures in National Trust Houses’, Burlington Magazine, supplement, April 1969, pp. 248–50. Gore indicated the ownership and location of works by asterisk: those without an asterisk were owned by the National Trust and on show to visitors to the house; those marked * were on loan to the National Trust from Lord Egremont; and those marked ** were in Lord Egremont's private rooms and accessible to the public only on designated Connoisseurs' Days.

  74. There is just one Spanish work, J. Pantoja de la Cruz’s Archduchess of Austria (Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, later Archduchess of Austria), NT 486250.

  75. National Gallery London, NG4452; Collection of the Duke of Northumberland at Syon House.

  76. The Madonna with Saint John and Angels by Andrea del Sarto is not featured in St John Gore’s list; it was not accepted by the Treasury in the 1950s, probably because the hand of the master was hidden under layers of dirt, and it remains in the private collection of Lord Egremont at Petworth House.

  77. The public and private pictures are also reunited in special exhibitions, such as Remastered: Bosch to Bellotto (9 January – 6 March 2016).



by Emily Burns
20 November 2020
House Essay
CC BY-NC International 4.0
Cite as
Emily Burns, "Decoding the Country House Archive: Pictures and Papers at Petworth House", Art and the Country House,