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Sir John Ross

Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

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Ross became an Arctic explorer after distinguished naval service in the Napoleonic Wars. In 1818, he made his first voyage in search of the Northwest Passage to China. Deciding the route was blocked by mountains, Ross's reputation suffered when it was later shown that the mountains were an optical illusion. Ross rebounded by attracting funding, from the gin distiller Felix Booth, to command the first steam ship into the Arctic on another voyage to locate the Northwest Passage (1829–1833).
This painting was probably commissioned to celebrate Ross's return from his second Arctic voyage which endured four winters in the ice, encountered the Inuit people of South Greenland and discovered the magnetic North Pole.

National Portrait Gallery, London





oil on canvas


H 132.1 x W 111.1 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Purchased, 1870

Work type



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Normally on display at

National Portrait Gallery, London

St Martin’s Place, London, Greater London WC2H 0HE England

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