John Sheppard

1 portrait on display in Room 16 at the National Portrait Gallery

John Sheppard, attributed to Sir James Thornhill, 1724 - NPG 4313 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

John Sheppard

attributed to Sir James Thornhill
chalk and pencil, 1724
12 3/4 in. x 9 7/8 in. (324 mm x 251 mm)
Purchased, 1963
Primary Collection
NPG 4313


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  • Sir James Thornhill (1675 or 1676-1734), Decorative painter and politician; father-in-law of Hogarth. Artist associated with 23 portraits, Sitter associated with 14 portraits.

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The notorious jail-breaker 'Jack' Sheppard was the subject of many eighteenth-century plays and ballads. Arrested in 1723 as a runaway apprentice, Sheppard made the first of many daring escapes from St Giles's Roundhouse and New Prison. He eluded 'Thief-taker General' Jonathan Wild's numerous efforts to capture him before being caught and condemned to death at the Old Bailey. After his trial he again escaped and was arrested near Finchley Common; taken to Newgate prison, he escaped once more. Sheppard was finally taken when in liquor and hanged at Tyburn. The artist James Thornhill, better known for his wall-paintings than his portraits, sketched Sheppard in his cell at Newgate prison shortly before his execution.

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