1763 Johan Zoffany

1763 Johan Zoffany

by Mark Wardell

The children of the Fourth Duke of Devonshire in the gardens of Chiswick House, 1763–5

Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) was born in Frankfurt and spent his childhood at the Court of the Prince of Thurn and Taxis where his father was Court Architect. He was apprenticed to a local artist, and eventually travelled to London in 1760 after several years’ work and study in Rome. Within a few years he was painting the royal family and children, having found patronage from George III’s queen, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He was a founding member of the Royal Academy and became renowned for his society and theatrical portraits, “though marked by an ugly visage and a squint.”* In spite of this he was something of a libertine, and a self-portrait of himself with a friar’s habit includes two condoms hanging close by in case of need.

Zoffany initially rented London Stile House (near today’s Stile Hall Gardens), close to the Court at Kew and not far from David Garrick, the country’s most famous actor and an important patron, in Hampton. He travelled to Europe and India, being shipwrecked off the Andaman Islands – the starving survivors held a lottery and ate the losing sailor, leading William Dalrymple to describe Zoffany as “the first and last Royal Academician to have become a cannibal.” As he became wealthier he bought a house on Strand-on-the-Green (1790), and snapped up the adjacent properties to expand his residence as they became available. A blue plaque marks his house on Strand-on-the-Green where he lived until his death in 1810. **

Acknowledgement: © Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees.

Supported by Zoffany – Luxury Fabric and Wallpaper Design. 

* https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/johan-zoffany-one-to-watch
** Penelope Treadwell, ‘Johan Zoffany Lived Here’, Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 8 (1999)

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