Robert Vernon (art patron)

Robert Vernon (1774–1849) was an English contractor and businessman, known as a patron of art.

Robert Vernon, 1848 portrait by Henry Collen and George Jones
Copy of Mona Lisa, formerly in the Vernon collection


Vernon was a self-made man, a jobmaster, posting contractor, and dealer in horses in London in a large way. He amassed a fortune as contractor for the supply of horses to the British armies during the Napoleonic wars.[1]

Between 1820 and 1847 Vernon collected about 200 pictures by living British artists, with a few by other European painters. On 22 December 1847 he presented a selection of 157 pictures from his collection to the nation. This collection was housed at first in Marlborough House; it was moved to the South Kensington Museum, and in 1876 to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. It was subsequently split between the National Gallery and Tate Gallery.[1] He also intended to give money in his will to support art and artists. In the event Leicester Viney Smith inherited from the unmarried Vernon, changing his surname to do so.[2]

Vernon was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He died at his house in Pall Mall, London on 22 May 1849, and was buried at Ardington, Berkshire, where he owned property.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Lee, Sidney, ed. (1899). "Vernon, Robert" . Dictionary of National Biography. 58. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  2. ^ Whittingham, Selby. "Vernon, Robert". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28247.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

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