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'The Gaols Committee of the House of Commons'

4 of 14 portraits of Sir James Thornhill

'The Gaols Committee of the House of Commons', by William Hogarth, circa 1729 - NPG 926 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

'The Gaols Committee of the House of Commons'

by William Hogarth
oil on canvas, circa 1729
20 3/8 in. x 27 1/8 in. (519 mm x 688 mm)
Given by George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle, 1892
Primary Collection
NPG 926

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Artistback to top

  • William Hogarth (1697-1764), Painter and engraver. Artist associated with 126 portraits, Sitter associated with 19 portraits.

Sittersback to top

This portraitback to top

In 1729 a committee of the House of Commons was appointed 'to enquire into the State of the Gaols of this Kingdom'. This scene commemorating the inquiry may be set in the notorious Fleet Prison and is thought to include the humanitarian MP, James Oglethorpe, as chairman, seated on the left, with Lord Onslow and Lord Egmont seated next to him. The figure standing third from the right in the foreground is probably Sir Archibald Grant, the man who commissioned the painting. The prisoner may be the Portuguese Jacob Mendez Solas, one of the first to be imprisoned for debt at the Fleet wearing full irons. Given by the 9th Earl of Carlisle, 1892. More detailed information on this portrait is available in a National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue, John Kerslake's Early Georgian Portraits (1977, out of print).

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Events of 1729back to top

Current affairs

Committee of the House of Commons appointed to enquire into the state of Britain's gaols. Opening of the first Putney Bridge; the only fixed crossing of the River Thames between London Bridge and Kingston Bridge at the time. Tornado destroys buildings in Sussex and Kent

Art and science

Chiswick House in London, a pioneering example of English Palladian revival architecture, is designed by its owner Richard Boyle with the help of the architect William Kent. Jonathan Swift publishes A Modest Proposal; a satirical attack on attitudes towards the poor and Irish policy more generally.


Benjamin Franklin prints, publishes and largely writes the weekly Pennsylvania Gazette, which soon becomes the most successful newspaper in the colonies. Treaty of Seville seals peace between Britain and Spain. King Frederick IV of Denmark charters the Danish East India Company.

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