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; MP for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis; father-in-law of Hogarth. Artist associated with 23 portraits, Sitter associated with 14 portraits.

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When folk hero John Sheppard was finally captured and condemned to death, Sir James Thornhill paid Sheppard's jailors so that he could draw him shortly before his execution. Sheppard had been convicted for burglary but his escapes from prison had won him fame and popular support. Thornhill's sympathetic portrait circulated widely as an engraving, generating money and prestige for the artist. A poem in the British Journal, addressed to Thornhill, told how:
Thy Pencil brings a kind Reprieve,
And bids the dying Robber live.

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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