Regarding Johann Zoffany.
|Johan Zoffany, Self-Portrait, 1776, Uffizi, oil on panel, 87.5 x 77 cms|
Johann Zoffany, The Tribuna degli Uffizi, 1772-89, oil on canvas, 123.5 x 155 cm, Royal Collection.
David Teniers the Younger, Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in his Gallery, c. 1647, Oil on copper, 106 x 129 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid.
By any standards Johann Zoffany was a highly successful artist, both critically and financially. Despite some dips, the artist has been generally in favour. The Zoffany revival dates from 1920, followed by a large exhibition in 1977, and most recently an exhibition in London in 2012, Johann Zoffany RA: Society Observed. His fame mostly rests on the large Tribuna at the Uffizi, but he was also admired as a painter of portraits including self-portraits. These have been seen to work on deeper levels, even to the extent of disguising a melancholy character which would not have been acceptable to patrons if he had chosen to display this openly. Zoffany was born near Frankfurt in 1733 to a cabinet-maker. He made his first visit to Rome in 1750 where he studied under the baroque artist Masucci, and much more significantly, the neo-classical Anton Raphael Mengs. A decade later Zoffany departed for London where he became friends with the actor-manager David Garrick. In 1772 he resolved to return to Italy, and on hearing this, Queen Charlotte commissioned Zoffany to “paint the Florence gallery” which resulted in the picture known as The Tribuna at the Uffizi. Not averse to putting on airs, Zoffany styled himself as the “Queen’s Painter” and regarded the Tribuna as his own domain. He gave orders for pictures in the Uffizi (as well as the Pitti Palace) to be arranged and displayed according to his own design. He moved sculpture and other “beautiful things” into the Tribuna and resolved to paint the portraits of the connoisseurs who were visiting Florence. Zoffany’s strategy proved very effective since in 1773 he was elected to the Reale Accademia dell Belle Arti in Florence, though the death of his child in 1774 soured his triumphs and delayed the completion of his painting. The long stay in Florence was partly responsible for the negative reception the picture received from King George III and Queen Charlotte. Zoffany’s royal patrons also objected to the picture being full of portraits which struck them as odd and inappropriate to a view of the Florentine galleries, their original prescription.
Zoffany and the Tribuna: A Record of the Florentine Collections, or More?
Johann Zoffany Group in Tribuna: George 3rd Earl Cowper, Sir John Dick, Other Windsor 6th Earl of Plymouth, Johann Zoffany, Charles Loraine- Smith, Richard Edgcumbe, Mr Stevenson, companion to Lord Lewisham, George Legge (Lord of Lewisham).
Raphael and Studio, St John the Baptist, St John the Baptist in the Wilderness, c. 1518, Oil on canvas, 165 x 147 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
Raphael, Madonna and Child (The Large Cowper Madonna), 1508, Oil on wood, 81 x 57 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
What were Zoffany’s intentions in conceiving his painting of the Florentine art treasures? Scholars are divided in their opinions. One of the most eminent Zoffany experts, Oliver Millar, says there is no hidden meaning; it is simply a record of the art treasures in the Grand Ducal collections. According to this scholar, Zoffany re-arranged the items to reflect the best works in the collection. Millar identified every work and person in Zoffany’s Tribuna, and his strategy was to begin with the painter’s views of people in rooms. Millar places Zoffany’s Tribuna in the tradition of 17th century “painted cabinets and galleries” such as the works of David Teniers, and the hanging configuration may also owe something to Hogarthian displays. In a more speculative vein, Ronald Paulson voyages into deeper waters, his focus on the more intimate side of the painter’s life. For Paulson, this public scene veils more personal iconography, and given the extremely esoteric nature of Zoffany’s own private symbolism in the self-portraits, maybe this explanation holds some weight, though there is no hard evidence to support it. Central to Paulson’s argument is that Zoffany placed himself close to a number of Holy Families and conspicuously emphasized Raphael’s John the Baptist on the back wall, which Paulson relates to the surprising birth of Zoffany’s own child on the boat to Italy, who later tragically died from a fall in Florence. Zoffany does seem to stand protectively behind the Raphael Cowper Holy Family (a late addition) which is a picture he actually owned until he sold it to George, 3rd Earl Cowper who admires it on the other side. Cowper complained that Zoffany’s elegant clothes made him look like an earl instead of an artist, but here Zoffany wears rough fitting garments which Pressly argues are a deliberate reference to Democritus the laughing philosopher, which does seem plausible as artists, e.g. Rembrandt, compared themselves to Democritus. If we accept this interpretation, then we might conclude that Zoffany via the Tribuna, laughs at an ignorant public unable to decode a message meant for the artistic elite of which he is part. Within the picture generally there may be a tension between the sacred and the profane, the erotic and the chaste, by the positioning of certain works, like Annibale Carracci’s Nymph and Satyr and Raphael’s Madonna della Sedia. The most visible pagan work is Titian’s Venus d’Urbino inspected by Thomas Patch, Sir Howard Mann, the Hon Felton Hervey and various others. As Paulson says, the Venus d’Urbino “meant something special to Zoffany” as he put it in his Self-Portrait of 1772. It seems significant too that the only other artist in the Tribuna, Patch, also inserted it in his caricatures of the milordi in Florence.
A Digression on Connoisseurship in the 18th Century.
William Hogarth, the “Tail-Piece “or “The Bathos”, 1761, engraving.
Matthew Darley, A Connoisseur Admiring a Dark Night Piece, etching, 1771, etching, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
As Harry Mount points out, there were optimistic and pessimistic views of connoisseurs in the 18th century. In the second camp was Hogarth who declared that “connoisseur” had become a byword for “dishonest dealers” rather than art lovers. A good example of a disreputable dealer in the circle of Patch and Zoffany would be Ignazio Hugford, a minor painter, dealer, and sad to say, one of the first forgers of Pre-Giotto-esque art. Hogarth inventively channelled his displeasure into an image that encapsulated all the derision that he had for dealers and connoisseurs profiting from the Italian art market. This is the famous 1761 “tail-piece” which shows an overdressed ape holding a magnifying glass, which in those times was considered the salient image of the connoisseur. The ocular tool may also have been a symbol of the lassitude and feebleness of upper-class aristocrats which is why it might appear in Zoffany’s Tribuna. Clustered around the celebrated Venus de Medici in that picture are a group of well-dressed connoisseurs. One of them, T Wilbraham, uses a magnifying glass to inspect the Venus de Medici, while others affect interest in her, or in the case of James Bruce, a noted philanderer, look away towards the viewer. Glasses were also associated with voyeurism and myopia, a metaphor for milordi “distorted by foolishness and fashion” mercilessly satirised in A Connoisseur Admiring a Dark Night Piece of 1771.
The Taste of the Tribuna.
Annibale Carracci, Venus with a Satyr and Cupids, c. 1588, Oil on canvas, 112 x142 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, top left of left wall.
Raphael, Madonna della Seggiola (Sedia), 1514, Oil on wood, diameter 71 cm, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), left of left wall.
Peter Paul Rubens, The Consequences of War, 1638, Oil on canvas, 206 x 342 cm, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence, middle of back wall.
Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Richard Southwell, 1536, oil and tempera on oak, middle-left of back wall.
Unsurprisingly in a gallery in Italy, the school most represented is that of the artists of that country. The main Italian artist present, or even over-represented, is Raphael (6 canvases) followed by Titian (2 including a workshop piece) and a Correggio which actually inspired a Madonna painted on the back of Zoffany’s Parma Self-Portrait. There are some minor renaissance painters like Lorenzo di Credi’s Portrait of Perugino and Franciabigio’s Madonna. Turning to the next century, the most represented artist is Guido Reni (3) and most of the other seicento Italians like Allori, Annibale Carracci, Pietro da Cortona and Guercino have a picture apiece. It’s noticeable that there is no Dutch art, which might reflect the antipathy of English connoisseurs towards that school. Leading taste-makers like Reynolds and Walpole denigrated Dutch art while praising Italian painting to the skies. Flemish masters were highly esteemed, the most famous being Peter Paul Rubens. The Fleming has 2 canvases in the Tribuna (a group portrait of the 17th century neo-stoic philosopher Justus Lipsius and his pupils, including Rubens and his brother Philip) and the famous allegory, the Horrors of War on the central wall at the back. Lesser known is Rubens’s countryman, and a Medici portraitist, Sustermans, whose portrait of Galileo is very fine. The only ambassador of the German and English schools is Hans Holbein the Younger with his Portrait of Sir Richard Southwell, previously in the Earl of Arundel’s collection and given by him to Duke Cosimo II Medici. This small English portrait seems quite out of place and completely overwhelmed by the abundance of Italian works.
1) Johann Zoffany, The Tribuna degli Uffizi, 1772-89, oil on canvas, 123.5 x 155 cm, Royal Collection.
2) David Teniers the Younger, Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in his Gallery, c. 1647, Oil on copper, 106 x 129 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid.
3) Johann Zoffany, A Florentine Fruit Stall, c. 1777, Tate Britain, oil on canvas, 57.8 x 49.2 cms.
4) Allan Ramsay, King George III, 1762, Royal Collection, measurements not known.
5) Johann Zoffany, The Academicians of the Royal Academy, Royal Collection, 1771-2, oil on canvas, 101.1 x 147.5 cm.
6) Johan Zoffany, Self-Portrait, 1776, Uffizi, oil on panel, 87.5 x 77 cms.
7) Johann Zoffany, Lord Cowper with the Gore Family, 1775, oil on canvas, 78 x 97.5 cms, Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
8) Johan Zoffany, Self-Portrait, Parma, 1770s, oil on panel, 43 x 39 cms.
9) Johann Zoffany, Holy Family, 1779, Galleria Nazionale di Parma, oil on canvas, measurements not known.
10) Correggio, The Adoration of the Child, 1518-20, Oil on canvas, 81 x 67 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, middle of left wall.
11) Johann Zoffany, Tribuna, Central Group: Pietro Bastianelli (custode of gallery), Hon Felton Hervey, John Gordon, Sir John Taylor, Thomas Patch, Sir Horace Mann.
12) Key to Tribuna with names of art and people.
13) Titian, The Venus d’ Urbino, 1538, Uffizi, Florence, oil on canvas, 119 x 165 cm.
14) Thomas Patch, The Cognoscenti, Including Captain Walcot, Mr Apthorpe and Thomas Patch, late 1750s, Oil on canvas, 77 x 113 cm, National Trust, Petworth House.
15) The Wrestlers, (also known as Gladiators) Florence, Uffizi, marble, ht. 0.89 m
16) Johann Zoffany, Tribuna, Venus de Medici Group: George Finch, 9th Earl of Winchelsea, Mr Watts, Mr Doughty, Mr Wilbraham,T Wilbraham.
17) Venus de Medici, marble, height (1.53 m), a copy, perhaps Athenian of the first century B.C, Tribuna, Uffizi, Florence.
18) William Hogarth, the “Tail-Piece “or “The Bathos”, 1761, engraving.
19) Matthew Darley, A Connoisseur Admiring a Dark Night Piece, etching, 1771, etching, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
20) Fillipino Lippi, Self-Portrait (or creation by Ignazio Hugford based on other likenesses of renaissance artists) , detached fresco on flat tile, 50 x 31 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
21) Johann Zoffany Group in Tribuna: George 3rd Earl Cowper, Sir John Dick, Other Windsor 6th Earl of Plymouth, Johann Zoffany, Charles Loraine- Smith, Richard Edgcumbe, Mr Stevenson, companion to Lord Lewisham, George Legge (Lord of Lewisham).
22) Raphael, St John the Baptist, St John the Baptist in the Wilderness, c. 1518, Oil on canvas, 165 x 147 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
23) Raphael, Madonna and Child (The Large Cowper Madonna), 1508, Oil on wood, 81 x 57 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
24) Raphael, Madonna della Seggiola (Sedia), 1514, Oil on wood, diameter 71 cm, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), left of left wall.
25) Same in frame.
26) Raphael, Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi, Uffizi, Florence, Oil on wood, 154 x 119 cm, top right of right wall.
27) Lorenzo di Credi, (formerly att to Raphael), Portrait of a Man (possibly Perugino), c. 1504, Oil on wood, 51 x 37, cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, middle-right of back wall
28) Guido Reni, Charity, Palazzo Pitti, oil on canvas, 69 x 80 cms, c. 1639-40, top right of left wall
29) Guido Reni, Cleopatra, c. 1638-39, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, 122 x 96 cm, top left of right wall.
30) Annibale Carracci, Venus with a Satyr and Cupids, c. 1588, Oil on canvas, 112 x142 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, top left of left wall.
31) Justus Sustermans, Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636, Oil on canvas, 66 x 56 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, right of left wall.
32) Peter Paul Rubens, The Consequences of War, 1638, Oil on canvas, 206 x 342 cm, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence, middle of back wall.
33) Peter Paul Rubens, Justus Lipsius with his Pupils, The Four Philosophers, 1611-12, Oil on canvas, 164 x 139 cm, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence, middle of right wall.
34) Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Richard Southwell, 1536, oil and tempera on oak, middle-left of back wall.
 William L. Pressly, “The Self-Portraits of Johann Zoffany” The Art Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 1, (March 1987), 88-101.
 Millar, Zoffany and his Tribuna, (London, 1966).
 For a brief introduction to Millar’s ideas, see Ronald Paulson, “Zoffany and Wright of Derby: Contexts of English Art in the Late Eighteenth-Century”, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, (Winter, 1969), 278-295.
 As told by the second Mrs Zoffany (the first had been left in Italy and Z subsequently learned of her death. See Paulson, “Zoffany and Wright”, 282.
 George, 3rd Earl Cowper (1738-89), Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, collector, and lover of Florence. In this group may also be Joseph Leeson, Viscount Russborough, 2nd Earl of Milltown (1730-1801). His presence was reported in Florence (Gazzetta Toscana) after Zoffany’s departure, but the figure does not agree with Batoni’s portrait.
 Sir Horace Mann (1706-86). Friend and correspondent of Horace Walpole. In 1740 he became British Resident in Florence (1740-65). Envoy Extraordinary (1765-82), Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary (1782-86). Received the Order of the Bath in 1768. Hon Felton Hervey (1712-73), ninth son of the Ist Earl of Bristol, Equerry to Queen Caroline of Ansbach and Groom of the Bedchamber to William, Duke of Cumberland. He was in Florence in September 1772.
 Harry Mount, “The Monkey with the Magnifying Glass: Constructions of the Conoisseur in Eighteenth-Century Britain”, Oxford Art Journal,29. 2., 2006, 167-183.
 On Hugford’s dubious activities, Bruce Cole, “Masaccio, Lippi or Hugford”, The Burlington Magazine, Vol 113, No. 882, (Sep, 1971), 500-507.
 James Bruce (1730-94). Famous African traveller. In Florence in January 1774.
 Mount, “The Monkey”, 173.
 Presented on 30th March 1778 to Pietro Leopoldi.