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London's Top 10 : National Gallery

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The National Gallery has around 2,300 pictures, from the early Renaissance to the Impressionists (1250–1900), forming one of the greatest collections in the world. Containing work by the most important painters of the main European schools, the collection was acquired by the government from John Julius Angerstein in 1824, and moved to the present building (also home to the National Portrait Gallery, in 1838. The Sainsbury Wing, built in 1991, houses the excellent early Renaissance collection.

  • Trafalgar Square WC2

  • 020 7747 2885

  • www.nationalgallery.org.uk

  • Open 10am–6pm Sat–Thu (10am–9pm Fri). Sainsbury Wing exhibitions open until 9pm on Wed

  • Free

  • Free guided tours at 11:30am and 2:30pm daily (also 7pm Fri)


Gallery Guide

The gallery is divided into four areas. The Sainsbury Wing contains the Early Renaissance collection, with paintings from 1250 to 1500. The West Wing displays works from 1500 to 1600, the North Wing 1600–1700, and the East Wing 1700–1900. Although the main entrance is on Trafalgar Square, the Sainsbury Wing makes a more sensible starting point.


National Gallery façade

There is a café and a good restaurant.


The Sainsbury Wing has an excellent art bookshop.


Guided tours and audio guides are available.


Explore the collection on screen with ArtStart, which is situated in the Sainsbury Wing.


Top 10 Paintings
  1. The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist

    This full-size drawing for a painting, known as a cartoon (from cartone, a large sheet of paper), is one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance, by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519).

  2. The Arnolfini Portrait

    One of the most famous paintings from the extensive Flemish collection is this unusual and masterly portrait of an Italian banker and his wife in Bruges. Jan van Eyck (c.1385–1441) brought oil painting to a new and colourful height.

  3. The Ambassadors

    Symbols, such as the foreshortened skull foretelling death, abound in this painting by Hans Holbein (1533).

  4. The Wilton Diptych

    A highlight of Gothic art, this exquisite English royal painting, by an unknown artist, shows Richard II being recommended to the Virgin by saints John the Baptist, Edward and Edmund.

  5. The Rokeby Venus

    Painted in Rome to replace a lost Venetian painting, The Rokeby Venus is the only nude by Diego Velázquez (1599–1660), court painter to Spain’s Philip IV.

  6. Mystic Nativity

    Feminine grace has never been depicted better than by the painter Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510). Painted in a centennial year, Mystic Nativity reflects his own anxieties, with an inscription from Revelation.

  7. The Supper at Emmaus

    A master of light and shade, Caravaggio (1571–1610) painted without preliminary drawings and used contemporary costumes and settings to produce a vivid realism.

  8. A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal

    Peace and calm rule the works of the Dutch painter Jan Vermeer (1632–75). Many of his interiors were painted in his home in Delft, but it has never been possible to identify his models.

  9. A Woman Bathing in a Stream

    This portrait by Rembrandt (1606–69) was painted when his technical powers were at their height, and shows his striking brushwork and mastery of earthy colours.

  10. Bathers at La Grenouillière

    Claude Monet (1840–1926), the original Impressionist, explored the effect of light on water at La Grenouillière, a popular bathing spot on the Seine, where he worked alongside Auguste Renoir.

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