John Knatchbull, c. 1844
by an unknown artist
lithograph on paper (frame: 40.0 x 31.5 cm, sheet: 23.3 x 17.7 cm, sight: 22.2 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.
Gift of Leo Schofield AM 2005
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2005.9
More about the artist and subject
Magazine article, Portrait 16
Meeting by Murder
The story behind two colonial portraits; a lithograph of captain and convict John Knatchbull and newspaper illustration of Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke.
Permanent collection catalogue
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.