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The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators, 1605

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The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators, 1605

by Crispijn de Passe the Elder
engraving, circa 1605
7 7/8 in. x 8 1/8 in. (200 mm x 206 mm)
Given by H.M. Stationery Office, 1871
Primary Collection
NPG 334a

On display in Room 3 on Floor 3 at the National Portrait Gallery

Artistback to top

  • Crispijn de Passe the Elder (circa 1565-1637), Engraver, draughtsman and print publisher. Artist or producer associated with 37 portraits.

Sittersback to top

This portraitback to top

This print includes the only contemporary portrait of Guy Fawkes and other members of the plot to destroy the Houses of Parliament in 1605. The names of the conspirators are inscribed in Latin above their portraits. The text below describes the events of the plot and the fate of the conspirators. It is written in Latin, French and German, which indicates the international audience for this image.

Related worksback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 102 Read entry

    The Powder Treason or Gunpowder Plot was an attempted coup by desperate Catholics whose hopes of religious toleration under James I's rule had proved illusory. Gunpowder was set in the cellars of the House of Lords on the night before the state opening of parliament on 5 November 1605; the man arrested in charge of the gunpowder gave his name as John Johnson but was soon identified as Guy or Guido Fawkes, a thirty-two year old from York. Robert Catesby, a Warwickshire landowner, was the ringleader of the plot, which was exposed after a letter was sent to a Catholic nobleman, William Parker, 5th Baron Monteagle, warning him not to attend the opening of parliament. The conspirators were rounded up and executed following show trials, and the story was instantly propagandised in pamphlets and ballads. This print is the only contemporary image of the conspirators, who are identified in the inscriptions above their images; however, only eight of the thirteen are depicted, and the similarity of the likenesses indicates that they are probably not true portraits. The text beneath the images describes the events of the plot and the fate of the conspirators. Crispijn de Passe the Elder was born and trained in Antwerp, and although he created engravings for the English market, he is not known to have travelled to England; the text is in Latin, French and German, which indicates that the print was intended for an international audience.

  • Charles Nicholl, Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, 2015, p. 23
  • Nicholl, Charles, Insights: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, 2005, p. 20
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 704

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Events of 1605back to top

Current affairs

The Gunpowder Plot is foiled when Guy Fawkes is discovered with barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords. The coup, to blow up the House at the State Opening of Parliament, thereby assassinating James I, was conceived by a group of Catholics angered by the king's repression of recusants.

Art and science

In the first of many collaborations with architect Inigo Jones, playwright Benjamin Jonson presents The Masque of Blackness for James I's, in which Queen Anne makes an appearance. The production secures future masque commissions for Jones and Jonson at court.
Philosopher, Francis Bacon, publishes his treatise The Advancement of Learning.


Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes publishes the first part of his satirically romantic novel Don Quixote.
Within a matter of months, three popes would ascend the papal throne, Clement VIII, Leo XI, Paul V respectively.

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Catherine Koehl

17 October 2016, 18:54

This engraving is a second, reworked estate of this engraving :;sort:call_number%2Cauthor%2Ccd_title%2Cimprint;lc:FOLGERCM1~6~6&mi=3&trs=926 or
Many details prove it : number of hairs on Percy, of stripes on Winter. The best proof is the cape of Percy, which is partially erased in this second state.