The collecting of art became a key feature of British country houses in the early 17th century . Connected to this very earliest accumulation of paintings is the development of the long gallery, originally simply a place to exercise in bad weather, but eventually a space tacitly understood to be a display area for portraits. As country house owners, family members, and visitors would view these works, they would put each portrait to the ultimate test: whether or not it genuinely conveyed the individual represented . This evaluation of portraiture and its success in showing the spirit of a person is a practice that continues still today.
The display of portraits in country houses greatly developed over the centuries, but their connotations remained very much the same. Art collections took on a more public face as visitors toured country houses; family portraits represented the dynastic status of the house, as well as the artistic taste of the owner . Portraits played a significant role in visually representing the illustrious history of the country house and the long lineage of the family . Whether displayed in long galleries or entrance halls, dining rooms or saloons, family portraits remain a ubiquitous part of country house art collections.
Despite the importance of the display of portraiture in country houses, it is often difficult to find images of the interior decoration of these houses; even more seldom is there information about specific portraits that is easily accessible. Period films are an invaluable resource for those who want to experience the interiors of country houses but are unable to visit the houses themselves. In these films, country house family portraits work to establish an atmosphere that connects the fictional country house owner with the actual house and its renowned history. Through the viewing of period pieces, the display of portraiture in British country houses can be better understood and truly appreciated.
 McBride, Kari Boyd. Country House Discourse in Early Modern England: a Cultural Study of Landscape and
Legitimacy. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2001.
 Kerslake, J.F. “Pictures as Documents: The Chatham House Collection.” International Affairs 33.4 (1957): 453-459.
 Miers, Mary. The English Country House: from the Archives of Country Life. New York: Rizzoli International
 Musson, Jeremy. How to Read a Country House. London: Ebury Press, 2005.