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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

John Knatchbull, c. 1844

an unknown artist

lithograph on paper (frame: 40.0 cm x 31.5 cm, sheet: 23.3 cm x 17.7 cm, sight: 22.2 cm x 14.8 cm)

John Knatchbull (1792?-1844), naval captain and convict, served in the British navy before being convicted of stealing and transported to New South Wales. He became constable to the Bathurst - Mount York mail service and an overseer on the Parramatta Road before being convicted of forging. Sentenced to death, he was sent to Norfolk Island instead. Here he was involved in a mutiny, but escaped justice after turning informer on his fellow mutineers. He obtained his ticket of leave in 1843, but the following year he was arrested for the murder of a woman. He was defended by Robert Lowe, later Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary, who for the first time in a British court raised the plea of moral insanity (insanity of the will, as opposed to the intellect) in the case. Despite this plea and a subsequent appeal, Knatchbull was hanged in February 1844.

Portrait lithographs from colonial Australia are exceedingly rare.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Leo Schofield AM 2005
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2005.9

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

John Knatchbull (age 53 in 1844)

Subject professions

Migration and colonisation

Donated by

Leo Schofield AM (4 portraits)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius
Self portrait, c. 1849 Charles Rodius

The Dissecting Room

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2015

Joanna Gilmour accounts for Australia’s deliciously ghoulish nineteenth century criminal portraiture. 

Viscount Robert Lowe (Image plate from Vanity Fair Magazine), 1869 Carlo Pellegrini
Viscount Robert Lowe (Image plate from Vanity Fair Magazine), 1869 Carlo Pellegrini
Viscount Robert Lowe (Image plate from Vanity Fair Magazine), 1869 Carlo Pellegrini
Viscount Robert Lowe (Image plate from Vanity Fair Magazine), 1869 Carlo Pellegrini

Meeting by Murder

Magazine article by Yvonne Audette AM, 2005

The story behind two colonial portraits; a lithograph of captain and convict John Knatchbull and newspaper illustration of Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke.

Mr Mortimer Lewis, c. 1828 an unknown artist
Mr Mortimer Lewis, c. 1828 an unknown artist
Mr Mortimer Lewis, c. 1828 an unknown artist
Mr Mortimer Lewis, c. 1828 an unknown artist

Little treasures

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2002

The acquisition of the ivory miniatures of Mortimer and Mrs Lewis.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.