Arguably the greatest museum dedicated exclusively to portraiture is the National Portrait Gallery in London, which contains some 200,000 portraits, of which several thousand are self-portraits. Two impressive assemblies of self portraits are located in Florence and in Ireland. The prestigious Florentine art museum, the Uffizi Gallery, houses an outstanding collection originally assembled by Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici in the latter half of the seventeenth century. It includes more than 200 portraits, featuring works by Pietro da Cortona, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, and Marc Chagall. In Ireland, the National Self Portrait Collection , consisting of over 400 self-portraits by native or resident Irish artists , is on permanent display at the University of Limerick. The collection spans several centuries and includes fine art portraiture in many different media, from watercolour, gouache, ink, acrylics, tempera, ink-and-wash, and oils, to sculpted compositions in bronze, stone, steel and numerous combinations of mixed-media. Another fine collection is located in Washington's National Portrait Gallery.
Like any genre of painting, portrait art reflected the prevailing style of painting. In early Egypt, painted portraits and relief sculptures only showed the subject in profile. A portrait painted during the Baroque era would be more exuberant than the dignified Neo-Classical pictures, but neither was as down to earth as those of the Realists . Likewise, Romantic portraiture was more animated than Impressionist portraits, while Expressionist portraiture from the early twentieth century is typically the most garish and colourful of all eras. That said, in very simple terms one can detect two basic styles or approaches in portrait-painting: the 'Grand Style' in which the subject is depicted in a more idealized or 'larger-than-life' form; and the realistic, prosaic style in which the subject is represented in a more down to earth realistic manner.
Portrait photography is a popular commercial industry all over the world. Many people enjoy having professionally made family portraits to hang in their homes, or special portraits to commemorate certain events, such as graduations or weddings. Since the dawn of photography, people have made portraits. The popularity of the daguerreotype in the middle of the 19th century was due in large part to the demand for inexpensive portraiture. Studios sprang up in cities around the world, some cranking out more than 500 plates a day. The style of these early works reflected the technical challenges associated with 30-second exposure times and the painterly aesthetic of the time. Subjects were generally seated against plain backgrounds and lit with the soft light of an overhead window and whatever else could be reflected with mirrors.