When Richard went to see Cox’s Museum in Spring Gardens in the 1770’s he purchased (and kept) the catalogue (priced at half a guines). It describes the sight which greeted visitors. In the first salon he would have seen the imposing vision of two life-sized Zoffany portraits of the King and his Queen, surmounted on a dais of gold. I have no idea which of the many royal portraits by Zoffany were used (this one of George III is courtesy of Wikipedia, the one of Queen Charlotte comes from the Holbourne Museum of Art).
Johann had been born in Germany near Frankfurt am Main in 1733 and was trained by Martin Speer in Regensburg, where his father was employed as a court architect and cabinet maker. Later he spent time learning sculpture, travelling to Italy before coming to England in 1760 and painting vignettes inside clocks made by the clock-maker Stephen Rimbault.
This portrait shows him in 1776, then in his late thirties.
He specialized in ‘conversation pieces’, groups of individuals painted separately and then added into a group painting. One such is the portrait of the Sharp family, a musical group who lived on a barge on the Thames and held musical soirees for the rich and famous. (I blogged about Granville Sharp and his family previously at: http://georgiangentleman.posterous.com/59595355 ).
Details from the Sharp Family portrait.
As a painter of informal family portraits he quickly became a favourite of royalty. In 1763 he became a Freemason, and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1769 at the request of King George III. Later he worked in Venice and Florence, returning to England in 1779 to find the former popularity of conversation pieces much diminished. In his place Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough were supplying portraits to the very people who previously employed Zoffany. He travelled to India, working there for six years before returning to England in 1789.
He had previously painted royalty throughout Europe (this, the Austrian Emperor Leopold II and his family)
He also did loads of theatrical sketches, as in these ones of David Garrick, as the Provok’d Wife (left) and as Jaffier (right).
Though Zoffany made several visits to Europe and India during his lifetime he remained in Britain, dying at his home at Strand-on-the-Green on 11 November 1810. His ‘signature-dish’ (the conversation piece) is shown to its best in this portrait from the royal collection entitled The Tribuna of the Uffizi
Many happy returns Johann !
(P.S. a pair of Zoffany portraits featuring the great actor David Garrick was sold at Sotheby’s in December for £6,761,250/$10,563,777/ €7,893,784. Entitled The Garden at Hampton House, with Mr and Mrs David Garrick Taking Tea and The Shakespeare Temple at Hampton House they were acquired by the Garrick Club in London to add to their pre-eminent collection of works featuring the actor.)