Austen Henry Layard

Layard, a keen art historian and collector of early Italian art, bequeathed the bulk of his art collection to the National Gallery


Sir Austen Henry Layard was born in Paris on 5 March 1817 and spent many of his formative years in Italy. The Layard family returned to England in 1829.


After the death of his father in 1834, Layard entered the law firm of his uncle but was unable to settle into a legal career. Instead, in 1839 Layard and a companion, Edward Mitford, set out for Ceylon. They travelled together overland as far as Persia, parting company on 20 August 1840.

Mitford carried on to Ceylon. Meanwhile Layard spent the next couple of years alternating between Baghdad and life among the Bakhtiari tribe, who live in the mountainous region which now forms the modern border between Iran and Iraq.


In 1842 Layard travelled to Constantinople and was engaged by Sir Stratford Canning, the British Ambassador to Turkey. In 1845 Canning dispatched Layard to seek out the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh. Between 1845 and 1851 Layard excavated the cities of Nimrud and Nineveh, sending many of the artefacts back to England and into the collection of the British Museum.


On his return to England in 1851, Layard entered politics and served as MP for Aylesbury (1852–1857), Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (1853 and 1861–1866), MP for Southwark (1860–1869), and Chief Commissioner of Works (1868–1869). Layard was the British Ambassador to Spain (1869–1877) and Turkey (1877–1880).

In 1884 he retired to his house in Venice, Ca' Capello, with his wife Enid whom he had married in 1869. A Trustee of the National Gallery from 1866, Layard was a keen art historian and a collector of early Italian art. He died in London on 5 July 1894.

Next: Bequest to the Gallery

Layard paintings in the Gallery collection

Attributed to Bartolomeo Montagna, The Virgin and Child
The Virgin and Child
Probably by Bartolomeo Montagna
After Frans van Mieris the Elder: 'An Old Fiddler'
An Old Fiddler
After Frans van Mieris the Elder
Follower of Hugo van der Goes: 'Virgin and Child'
Virgin and Child
Follower of Hugo van der Goes
Attributed to Antonio Cicognara: 'Mystic Figure of Christ'
Mystic Figure of Christ
Probably by Antonio Cicognara
A Female Saint
Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop
Giovanni Buonconsiglio: 'Saint John the Baptist'
Saint John the Baptist
Probably by Giovanni Buonconsiglio
Workshop of Giovanni Bellini: 'The Virgin and Child'
The Virgin and Child
Workshop of Giovanni Bellini
Style of Ambrogio Bergognone: 'Saint Paul'
Saint Paul
Style of Ambrogio Bergognone
Style of Ambrogio Bergognone: 'Saint Ambrose (?)'
Saint Ambrose (?)
Style of Ambrogio Bergognone
Follower of Sandro Botticelli: 'The Virgin and Child'
The Virgin and Child
Follower of Sandro Botticelli
Andrea Busati: 'The Entombment'
The Entombment
Andrea Busati
Vittore Carpaccio: 'The Departure of Ceyx'
The Departure of Ceyx
Vittore Carpaccio
Italian, Venetian: 'Augustus and the Sibyl'
Augustus and the Sibyl
Italian, Venetian
Andrea Previtali: 'Christ Blessing'
Christ Blessing
Andrea Previtali
Jacopo de' Barbari: 'A Sparrowhawk'
A Sparrowhawk
Jacopo de' Barbari
Workshop of Bernardino Luini: 'The Virgin and Child'
The Virgin and Child
Workshop of Bernardino Luini
Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo: 'Saint Jerome'
Saint Jerome
Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo
Attributed to Girolamo Romanino: 'Pegasus and the Muses'
Pegasus and the Muses
Possibly by Girolamo Romanino
Attributed to the Workshop of Giovanni Bellini: 'The Adoration of the Kings'
The Adoration of the Kings
Workshop of Giovanni Bellini
Attributed to Gentile Bellini: 'The Sultan Mehmet II'
The Sultan Mehmet II
Gentile Bellini
After Gentile Bellini: 'Doge Niccolò Marcello'
Doge Niccolò Marcello
After Gentile Bellini
Raffaellino del Garbo: 'Portrait of a Man'
Portrait of a Man
Raffaellino del Garbo
After Bonifazio di Pitati: 'Dives and Lazarus'
Dives and Lazarus
After Bonifazio di Pitati
Italian, Venetian: 'A Naval Battle'
A Naval Battle
Italian, Venetian
Cima da Conegliano virgin and child with st paul and st francis
The Virgin and Child with Saint Paul and Saint Francis
After Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano
Attributed to Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano: 'The Virgin and Child with Saints'
The Virgin and Child with Saints
Probably by Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano
Workshop of Master of the Magdalen Legend: 'The Magdalen Weeping'
The Magdalen Weeping
Workshop of Master of the Magdalen Legend
Attributed to Girolamo Genga: 'A Jesse-Tree'
A Jesse-Tree
Possibly by Girolamo Genga
Italian, Florentine: 'Head of a Male Saint'
Saint Peter
Italian, Florentine
Giovanni Battista Moroni: 'The Vestal Virgin Tuccia'
The Vestal Virgin Tuccia
Giovanni Battista Moroni
Giovanni Battista Moroni: 'Portrait of Leonardo Salvagno (?)'
Portrait of Leonardo Salvagno (?)
Giovanni Battista Moroni
Rosalba Giovanna Carriera: 'Portrait of a Man'
Portrait of a Man
Rosalba Carriera
After Rosalba Giovanna Carriera: 'Rosalba Carriera'
Rosalba Carriera
After Rosalba Carriera
After El Greco: 'Saint Peter'
Saint Peter
After El Greco
Style of Anthony van Dyck: 'Portrait of a Woman'
Portrait of a Woman
Style of Anthony van Dyck
Image unavailable
The Labours of the Months
Italian, Venetian
Image unavailable
Arezzo Fresco Fragments
Spinello Aretino
Image unavailable
Pietro Lorenzetti Fresco Fragments
Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop
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