Captain Sir James Clark Ross, 1800-62

(Updated, March 2019) A three-quarter-length portrait of the explorer wearing captain’s undress uniform. Ross is shown seated at a table next to a standing globe on his left. His right arm rests on a chart and behind him on the table are various navigational instruments. Behind him is a chart on the wall bearing the legend ‘South Polar Discovery 1841–42’. A nephew and protege of the arctic explorer Sir John Ross, James Clark Ross entered the navy under his auspices. He subsequently went on Parry’s arctic expeditions of 1819–20; 1821–23; 1824–25; 1827. In the Felix Booth expedition of 1829–33 he accompanied his uncle and was the actual discoverer of the north magnetic pole. In 1839 he surveyed the Antarctic, commanding the ‘Erebus’ and ‘Terror’ on one of the earliest Antarctic expeditions, and he is commorated there in the name of the Ross Sea among other features. He was away for four years and was knighted on his return. From 1848–49 his last service was to command one of the search expeditions to find Sir John Franklin. This portrait was posthumously painted in 1871 for a group of naval officers and scientists who wished to present it to the Naval Gallery at Greenwich Hospital to commemorate Ross's services to polar exploration. The likeness for the head was either from Pearce's existing sketches or one of two earlier paintings of Ross that he did. One is a small three-quarter length on millboard which was the life study, done in 1850, as preliminary for the other - the group portrait of 'The Arctic Council discussing the plan of search for Sir John Franklin', dated 1851 and shown at the Royal Academy in 1853: both these are now in the National Portrait Gallery. This one was shown at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1871 before its presentation to the Naval Gallery in 1872. For the published print of 'The Arctic Council', see PAI5010.

Object Details

ID: BHC2979
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Pearce, Stephen
Date made: 1871
People: Ross, James Clark
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
Measurements: Frame: 1637 mm x 1387 mm x 140 mm;Painting: 1275 mm x 1025 mm

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