The principal theme or iconographic programme for the decoration and picture hanging in this room has long been recognised as that of loyalty to the Crown. In the centre of the ceiling is the portrait medallion of George I, and round the edge similar medallions of George II, Queen Caroline and other identifiable members of the royal family (supplied by Perritt at a cost of 10/6d each). This highly visible sign of loyalty to the house of Hanover (so correct in the year of the gallery’s completion, 1746) is supplemented by the two central full length portraits between the windows on the north wall: the figures of William III and Mary II by Kneller, which had been given to Henry’s father the 3rd Viscount Irwin by the king in 1700. As well as representing the Glorious Revolution and the triumph of the Protestant Succession they are of course Stuarts, descendants of Temple Newsam’s most celebrated inhabitant Lord Darnley, husband of Mary Queen of Scots and father of James VI of Scotland and I of England. To either side of them originally hung portraits of royalist heroes of the Civil War: Lord Kensington, Sir Henry Slingsby etc etc. Beneath these grand ‘political’ pictures Henry hung his smaller cabinet paintings at eye level. Elsewhere, the earlier Stuart kings were represented by smaller, less prominent portraits.
On the wall opposite Henry continued the theme of loyalty, this time to family. At the east end he hung the double portrait of his second eldest brother Rich with his wife Lady Ann Howard, daughter of the third Earl of Carlisle and distinguished poetess, by Jonathan Richardson; to match it he commissioned his own double portrait with his wife from Philippe Mercier, then residing in York, and in the centre he placed the huge over-life size portrait of his father, Arthur third Viscount Irwin, out shooting in a landscape with his guns and his dog, painted in 1700 by Leonard Knyff at a cost of £35.
The rustic elements of this picture, with the hound having retrieved a bird in his mouth, the dead rabbit, and the ducks flying in formation, may well have prompted the second, or alternative iconographic programme for the room. Either side of the painting are the huge carved girandoles or wall sconces, with their central subject of a hound pursuing a stag. This is the first of our most obvious literary metamorphoses. According to Ovid, Actaeon, grandson of Cadmus, who (like Arthur in the portrait) was out hunting, found himself inadvertently spying on the goddess Diana and her attendants as they bathed. For this he was punished by being transformed into a stag to be mauled to death by his own hounds. It is as though the two dimensional representation of the painting has become three dimensional, moving from the real world inhabited by Arthur and his dog, to the mythological world inhabited by Diana and Actaeon.