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Benjamin Stillingfleet

2 of 46 portraits by Johan Joseph Zoffany

Benjamin Stillingfleet, by Johan Joseph Zoffany, circa 1761 -NPG 6477 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Benjamin Stillingfleet

by Johan Joseph Zoffany
circa 1761
36 in. x 27 7/8 in. (913 mm x 707 mm)
NPG 6477

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed above Benjamin Stillingfleet, 1761.

This portraitback to top

Stillingfleet at sixty appears as an engaging, open-mouthed botanist. As well as his magnifying glass, he holds a volume of Linnaeus’s Species Plantarum (1753), in which the Linnaean system of classification, [1] which he championed, was first defined, and the grasses on the table define his particular study - besides Zoffany’s delight in botanical illustration. [2]
NPG 6477 is one of the earliest of Zoffany’s English portraits. He had arrived in 1760, and his first sitters included a number of friends who had first met on the Continent in 1738-41: Stillingfleet (then with his charge William Windham, who d. 1761), Richard (Aldworth) Neville and Robert Price (d. 1761) of Foxley (who had all belonged to ‘The Common Room’, a lively group in Geneva 1740-41), and Robert Marsham (who had met Windham and Stillingfleet in Lyons in 1738). [3] Zoffany painted Neville [4] and Price [5] in 1761, and his portraits of Marsham (also a botanist) [6] and Stillingfleet are presumed to date from the same period.
A contemporary version, probably a copy, in the Berger Collection, Denver, [7] in which the grasses are disposed differently on the table, descended through the sitter’s nephew, William Locker, and was three times engraved. [8] NPG 6477, previously considered a version of the Berger portrait, [9] was very probably commissioned by Robert Marsham; their portraits by Zoffany were together at Rippon Hall until at least 1910. [10]

Footnotesback to top

1) Viz. of identifying a plant by using a second or trivial name in addition to the generic name.
2) Cf. Zoffany, NPG, 1977 (no.9), and, for example, the plants in his portrait of Garrick, NPG 1167.
3) See A. W. Moore in Norfolk and the Grand Tour, 1985, pp 41-47.
4) Private collection; exhibited Zoffany, NPG, 1977 (no.7).
5) Untraced; engraved J. Basire 1810.
6) Private collection; engraved E. Edwards (illus. Norfolk and the Grand Tour, Norwich, 1985, p 42).
7) Illus. Berger Collection, Denver, Colo., 1998, p 129; from the Locker Lampson sale, Christie’s, 14 December 1928, lot 88; Robinson & Fisher, 26 March 1936, lot 103; Christie’s, 27 January 1950, lot 163; Sotheby’s, 9 April 1997, lot 34.
8) By V. Green 1782 (half-length roundel; illus. Country Life, CLXIII, 1978, p 832; J. Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, II, p 338, said that ‘the original plate [by Green] having been purposely destroyed, the impressions from it are very rare’); Robert Shipster c.1772 (half length; from the picture with William Locker; illus. Norfolk and the Grand Tour, Norwich, 1985, p 42), and J. Basire 1810 (J. Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, II; oval, from the picture with E. H. Locker).
9) When the portraits were placed side by side in 1986 and examined by John Hayes and Mary Webster it was apparent that NPG 6477 was the original.
10) The Marsham portraits listed in Prince Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, 1927, II, pp 245-46, nos.24-29.

Physical descriptionback to top

Brown eyes, grey powdered hair, wearing a dark blue coat with blue buttons; seated in a red chair; the leather-bound book is titled: LINNAEI/SPECIES/PLANTAR[UM]//TOM/I; he holds a magnifying glass and specimens of grasses lie on the table.

Provenanceback to top

Probably painted for Robert Marsham; Marsham family, Rippon Hall, Heveningham, Norfolk, by 1910;1 2nd Viscount Camrose by 1955; his executors sale, Christie’s, 11 June 1999, lot 47, withdrawn; private treaty purchase 1999.

1 Prince Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, 1927, II, p 248, no.40.

Exhibitionsback to top

Norfolk and the Grand Tour, Norwich, 1985 (70) as after Zoffany.

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

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