The first painting owned by the National Portrait Gallery was in 1856 and is known today as the Chandos painting.
It was given to the gallery by the Duke of Chandos and it’s a portrait of William Shakespeare. The painting is the most famous of the portraits believed to be of Shakespeare.
It has not been possible to determine with certainty who painted the portrait, although it is attributed to a John Taylor, a respected member of the Painter-Stainers’ company and painted sometime from 1600-1610.
The collection was housed in famous places until 1896, when they moved to their current site at St Martin’s Place, next to the National Gallery. Today it has over 195,000 paintings, with the emphasis being on the sitter and not the artist.