Wisbech & Fenland Museum began with the formation of the Wisbech Museum Society in 1835, opening its doors on the present site in 1847. The collection of paintings comprises a variety of diverse genres from landscapes, seascapes and still lifes to pastoral, military battle scenes and portraiture. Visitors anticipating a plethora of parochial bucolic scenes of scant appeal may be surprised by the range of the collection, with paintings by known artists of genuine interest and good quality. Of particular note amongst the portrait pictures are a full-length, life-size picture of Napoleon I in his Coronation Robes, by François Gérard; a portrait of the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend (1798–1868), the donor of many valuable articles, as a young man; a portrait of Secretary Thurloe, the member of Parliament for Wisbech (the only member ever sent from the town). These are supplemented by numerous portraits of eminent figures associated with Wisbech and the Museum. Notable landscapes are presented in works by 19th-century painters George Vicat Cole and David Bates and seascapes by William Henry Williamson and Clarkson Stanfield. Dynamic battle scenes are represented in works by Joseph Parrocel. A 19th-century copy of the central panel of triptych painting by Peter Paul Rubens 'The Descent from the Cross', attributed to T. Van Sil (1835), introduces a poignant element of Italian High Art to the collection.