William Penny

1 portrait

William Penny, by Stephen Pearce, 1853 - NPG 1209 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

William Penny

by Stephen Pearce
oil on canvas, 1853
50 1/8 in. x 39 3/8 in. (1273 mm x 1000 mm)
Bequeathed by John Barrow, 1899
Primary Collection
NPG 1209

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Sitterback to top

  • William Penny (1808-1892), Seaman and explorer. Sitter in 2 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Stephen Pearce (1819-1904), Portrait and equestrian painter. Artist associated with 63 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.

This portraitback to top

In 1850, William Penny, a whaling officer, led one of the many expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin who had gone missing when charting the Arctic regions five years earlier. Penny's brig was named after his patron, Lady Franklin, the second wife of the missing explorer. This portrait by Stephen Pearce shows Penny in his explorer's garb with a view of the Arctic, including a team of dogs, behind him. The inscription on the flag reads: 'God aiding us we will do our duty'.

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Events of 1853back to top

Current affairs

Britain and America sign a treaty establishing an International Copyright agreement. Dickens, whose Bleak House is also published this year, was a particularly outspoken critic of these laws, as his works were freely published in America without any protection over copyright or royalties. He had lobbied the American Congress over the issue during his North American reading tour of 1842.

Art and science

David Livingstone makes a six month journey from the Zambezi river to the west coast of Africa. Harriet Martineau translates The Positive Philosophy of August Comte. A scientific approach to understanding the natural world and human and social relations, positivism has an important influence on the development of the social sciences. Holman Hunt exhibits his The Light of the World


Diplomatic row over Napoleon's call to the Turkish empire to restore Roman Catholic rights in the Holy Land. Russia asserts her role of protecting the rights of all Christians in the Ottoman empire; French and British fleets are dispatched to the Dardanelles. The Turkish sultan, declaring that he will look after the rights of Christians, heightens tension, and the Crimean war begins with Turkey declaring war on Russia.

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