The Shudi Family Group

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The Shudi Family Group

by Marcus Tuscher
oil on canvas, circa 1742
32 3/4 in. x 55 3/4 in. (834 mm x 1415 mm)
Purchased with help from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1985
Primary Collection
NPG 5776

On display in Room 9 on Floor 3 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sittersback to top

Artistback to top

  • Marcus Tuscher (1705-1751), Artist. Artist or producer of 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

Burkat Shudi, one of the leading London harpsichord makers of the eighteenth century, is shown with his wife Catherine and their two young sons, Joshua and Burkat. He is tuning a harpsichord which is said to have been made for Frederick the Great of Prussia. Of Swiss origin, Shudi settled in London in 1718 and founded the firm which later became Broadwoods, makers of pianos. This portrait shows him with his wife Catherine and their two sons: six-year old Joshua, wearing a blue frock-coat, and Burkat, aged five, still in his baby-clothes. The composition and props in this informal 'conversation piece' indicate the family's taste and prosperity. Probably painted around 1742, this portrait celebrates the family's recent inheritance - the paper Catherine holds is thought to be a copy of her father's will.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Edited by Lucy Peltz & Louise Stewart, Love Stories: Art, Passion & Tragedy, 2020, p. 114
  • Gibson, Robin, The Face in the Corner: Animal Portraits from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery, 1998, p. 38
  • Gibson, Robin, Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 55
  • Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 115
  • Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 128
  • Robin Gibson, Pets in Portraits, 2015, p. 66 Read entry

    The foremost harpsichord-maker in Britain, Shudi came to this country from the Swiss canton of Glarus in 1718 and was soon a friend of Handel and a respected member of the musical and German-speaking circles in London. Portraits of his royal patrons, Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Princess Augusta, can be seen hanging on the wall behind, and his commercial success was such that he had recently been able to move to this comfortable new town house in Great Pulteney Street, Soho. This painting, by a visiting German artist, clearly seems intended to show both Shudi’s professional and social standing and is an outstanding example of the newly fashionable conversation piece, popular with the new middle classes. His wife, Catherine, also from Glarus, is seen as a woman of leisure, reading and presiding over tea. His older son, Joshua, is pointing to the source of their well-being, the harpsichord and the business that he will eventually inherit. In fact, his father went into partnership with an apprentice, John Broadwood, and Joshua later became junior partner in Broadwoods, the great piano manufacturers.

    The younger son, Burkat junior, being restrained by his mother, is holding what looks like a rusk, with which he has been teasing the pretty grey-and-white tabby, who is mewing in vain for this tasty treat. For centuries cats had been tolerated round the house as the most effective form of rodent control, but since medieval times they had acquired undeserved associations with witchcraft and had been seen as symbols of everything from Satan to lethargy and lust. Such considerations bore little weight in the more rational mood of the eighteenth century, and, as here, cats make their appearance in paintings as suitable playthings for children and symbols of civilised domesticity. For a successful professional family like the Shudis with no ambitions to be accepted as country gentlefolk, a cat was a far more suitable pet than a dog for city living.

  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 92
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 92 Read entry

    Burkat Shudi was Swiss, his name being Burkhardt Tschudi before anglicisation. He settled in England in 1718 and soon afterwards is known to have been working for the harpsichord maker Hermann Tabel. By 1729, he was in independent practice and signed a harpsichord said to have been given by Handel to his favourite soprano, Anna Strada. Indeed, Shudi was a friend of Handel, described as a 'constant guest at his table [which was] ever well covered with German dishes and German wines'. In 1739 Shudi was living in Meard Street, Soho, where he remained until 1742, when the Daily Advertiser reported that he had 'removed from Meard's Street to Great Pulteney Street, Golden Square'. This group portrait of his family was painted at about that time and remained in the same house in Great Pulteney Street until the twentieth century. It was sold to the National Portrait Gallery by the Broadwood Trustees, since the firm of Shudi, which made harpsichords in the mid-eighteenth century, turned into Broadwood's, the greatest manufacturer of pianos throughout the nineteenth century.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 726

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1742back to top

Current affairs

Robert Walpole resigns as Prime Minister following the scandal surrounding the alleged rigging of the Chippenham by-election. He is made 1st Earl of Orford. Carteret administration formed with Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington as Prime Minister.

Art and science

Composer George Frideric Handel's Messiah is first performed at The Great Music Hall in Dublin.
Ranelagh Gardens opens in Chelsea.
Writer Edmond Hoyle publishes the definitive rules of whist.
James Bradley succeeds Edmond Halley as Astronomer Royal.
Painter Charles Jervas' translation of Don Quixote is posthumously published.


War of the Austrian Succession: Treaty of Berlin, mediated by Britain, is signed by Maria Theresa of Austria and Frederick II of Prussia, ending the First Silesian War. George II acts as guarantor.
Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius proposes 100 degrees between the freezing and boiling points of water.

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