Sherborne House was built by Henry Seymour Portman in 1720. He then commissioned Sir James Thornhill to decorate the staircase though we don't know the exact date this was done. The two men already knew one another for Portman, as patron of the College, had paid for part of Thornhill's painting on the reredos in All Souls College, Oxford. Thornhill was a Dorset man having been born in Melcombe Regis. When commissioned to paint Sherborne House he was at the height of his career. He had been appointed History Painter and Serjeant-painter to the George 1 and was Master of the Painter-Stainers Company. In 1720 he became the first English-born artist to be knighted and in 1722 was elected MP for the borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis and became a fellow of the Royal Society the next year. He won the two most prestigious contracts of the age - the decoration of the Painted hall at Greenwich and of the Dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.
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