chapter  4
Inventing national galleries
Pages 25

This chapter considers the relationship between various nation-building trajectories and the formation of the national gallery. It suggests that the origins of national galleries might be understood in relation to a limited number of nation-making scenarios. The chapter uses examples in Europe and parts of Central Asia to demonstrate that if looked at in this way, the national gallery ceases to be a universal cultural form. An important moment in the history of Europe's national galleries, for example, was the First World War, which finally put paid to the continent's seemingly eternal and controlling monarchies. On 5 June 1629, the painter, and on this occasion diplomat, Peter Paul Rubens arrived in London as an envoy of the Spanish Crown, there to consolidate its fragile peace with England. The National Gallery came into being nearly 180 years after this sale in a quite unrelated set of circumstances, and yet many historians associated the lost opportunity of Charles's collection with its birth.