Zoffani, Johann

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Zoffani, Johann (1733-1810): German/English, Painter.

Johann Zoffani, or John Zoffany, was born in Frankfurt, Germany, studied in Germany and Rome, and in around 1760 moved to London where he became famous; in fact, he is often regarded as an English artist. He is admired for great technical skill, an eye for exact detail, and lively and personal portraits of contemporaries. Zoffani excelled at small-scale pieces, portraits, and larger conversation pieces, or portraits of groups of people in their customary surroundings. A Neo-Classical artist, he was trained to portray models posed in the attitudes of antique Greek statues and to imitate classical techniques of perfecting anatomy. His paintings often feature portrayals of well-known classical artworks. Like the British painter Hogarth, William, Zoffani painted scenes from the London stage, notable performances by the famed actor David Garrick. Zoffani was a founding member of the Royal Academy, established in 1768. King George III became his patron, commissioning royal portraits and financing his travels. Zoffani worked as a portrait painter in India for several years. His creations during a lengthy sojourn to Italy included his best known work, the magnificent “Tribuna of the Uffizi” of 1780, portraying a group of gentlemen admiring paintings and sculptures in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Another well-known painting is “Charles Towneley, Esquire, and His Friends in the Towneley Gallery, Park Street, Westminister” (1790). Charles Towneley was a collector of ancient art, and the painting portrays several famous Greek sculptures now in the British Museum. After a long and brilliant career, Zoffani died in Strand-on-the-Green, Middlesex, England in 1810.

Further Reading:

Oliver Millar, Zoffany and his Tribuna, 1976.


Pamela S. Saur

Lamar University

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