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Johann Joseph Zoffany

10 of 35 portraits on display in Room 12 at the National Portrait Gallery

Johann Joseph Zoffany, by Johann Joseph Zoffany, 1761 - NPG 399 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Johann Joseph Zoffany

by Johann Joseph Zoffany
oil on canvas, 1761
20 3/4 in. x 16 1/4 in. (527 mm x 413 mm)
Purchased, 1875
Primary Collection
NPG 399


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Sitterback to top

  • Johann Joseph Zoffany (1733-1810), Painter of portraits and conversation pieces. Sitter associated with 11 portraits, Artist associated with 46 portraits.

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  • Johann Joseph Zoffany (1733-1810), Painter of portraits and conversation pieces. Artist associated with 46 portraits, Sitter associated with 11 portraits.

This portraitback to top

One of the most celebrated painters of the eighteenth century, the German-born Zoffany came to London in 1760. This self-portrait painted a year after his arrival shows him in a pensive moment with his 'porte-crayon' (pencil) and portfolio of drawings. This imagery relates to Zoffany's ambitions at a time when the actor David Garrick was helping him launch his career. With Garrick's encouragement, Zoffany invented a new kind of theatrical portrait which became widely known through prints. This increased his following among fashionable society and royalty and from the 1760s to 1780s he became one of the leading painters of conversation pieces and portraits. But once the fashion for conversation pieces dwindled in the early 1780s Zoffany set out for India where, between 1783 and 1789, he painted numerous group portraits that capture the social and domestic life of the British in India. The identity of both sitter and artist of this portrait have long been debated but in 2004, the Gallery reidentified the work as a self-portrait on the basis of comparisons with other self-portraits and the strength of the signature found on the artist's portfolio.

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