The Nacional Museum Soares dos Reis, the former Museu Portuense and Portugal's first art museum, was founded in 1833 when Pedro IV decided to establish a Museum of Painting and Prints in Oporto. His aim was to preserve the artistic heritage of the extinct convents and, simultaneously, promote its cultural and educational role.
The Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis collections come from a variety of sources. Works have come from civil, religious, public and private institutions. There have been legacies from provate collectors and acquisitions. From this rich and varied range of pieces, only a selection is on permanent exhibition due to space and coherence of the display.
In terms of the visual arts, the Museum exhibits paintng and sculpture by Portuguese artists and foreign ones who produced significant work in Portugal from the 19th century to the first half of the 20th. There is, furthermore, a group of sculpture and stonework from the Medieval period to the 19th century, wich is a particulary interesting in the context of the Museum's presence in the city of Oporto.
In the field of the decorative arts, the ceramics collection is specially noteworthy. Pieces range from the 17th to the 20th century, and there is an important display of Portuguese faience as well as some Oriental porcelain. Gold work from the 17th to the 19th century is represented by both civil and religious pieces. Jewellery also figures in the Museum, with an archeological component and religious and civil pieces up to the 19th century. Textiles from the 17th century, European glassware from the 18th and 19th century, and both European and Oriental furniture from the 17th and 18th century complete the decorative arts on show.