Sunday, March 29, 2009

Zoffany's Cock Match & Other Conversation Pieces : A Croaking Chorus or the Frogs of Aristophanes?


What is a Conversation Piece? In the original sense in which the term was used, it referred to a drawing or painting of a group of people, such as a family group,engaged in conversation or in some activity like dining ("soul food"?) or sport. These days, the term is used to refer to any drawing of a group that interests the viewers and leads to conversation about the subject, or subjects, of the drawing. I understand Conversation Pieces as a genre began first to be painted in England in the early 18th Century and portrayed prominent people or high society.

There are a number of framed pictures, mostly engravings plus the odd watercolour or pen & ink, hung in my house. And my wife is beginning to get annoyed with me. In truth, she is already extremely annoyed with me not only about the hang, or overhang, some of it hanging askew at times but also about the boxes of unframed prints and, especially, the books pulled out from their shelves and strewn about in the bedroom and in my study (which she dismissively calls the book room). On such occasions, I very reasonably observe to her that as she is not having to carry the load on her head, why should the litter trouble her at all. And that is when the argument starts.

But that is not what I wanted to say as it is easy enough to keep one jump ahead of trouble at home. All I have to do is put the books back in their shelves before she tidies up on me, so that is simple and easy enough. My difficulty is altogether different and I will try to explain below.

I have already said that the house has lots of framed pics hung in most of the rooms.But none of my visitors or friends give them a second look. That I can understand, everyone need not be taken up with these images, you need to be interested in that sort of thing. But when I show them one of my Conversation Pieces, that too one of the most celebrated of that ilk, and it leaves them cold, that can I not understand. For all the blank reaction it provokes, my visitor could be looking into the mirror and thinking "hey,very ordinary, nothing worthy of note here", as if seeing his or her own image. Here is that Conversation Piece I am referring to (pic taken through the glass and slightly out of focus in trying to avoid the flashback, but there is good clarity if you click and enlarge):



This is an engraving by Richard Earlom of the celebrated drawing, Col Mordaunt's Cock Match, by Johann Zoffany, drawn in 1784. It is a goodly sized engraving, image area 18 x 26 inches (height preceding width), published as a mezzotint in 1792. The version with me has added hand colouring, which I suspect is period but aftermarket. Here is the original uncoloured mezzotint :



Col Mordaunt's (Zoffany's) Cock Match

You can see that it is a busy scene and a crowded picture. It needs a key and I did manage, years ago, to scrounge a xerox of the original key from a dealer, Sotheran of Sackville Street. Unfortunately, I can not trace the key from out of all the bumf with me or the key has been tidied up on me, not sure which. I did manage to get a key from a Bombay dealer but it is a reduced version and doesn't reproduce well(but do click and enlarge, you can then see the numerals and text clearly enough) :



Johann Zoffany (1735 - 1810)

With a picture like this I had better begin with the artist, Zoffany. He was born in Frankfurt - on - Main, the son of a Bohemian Jew who was court architect to the Prince of Thurn und Taxis. His drawing skills were noticed even at school and as he did not distinguish himself at studies, Zoffany was apprenticed to a painter at a young age. After about a year of this, he "borrowed" some gold from his father's money chest and betook himself to Rome where he spent the next ten or twelve years as an itinerant artist, copying pictures from the galleries and so on. By this time Zoffany heard of his father's death and, judging it safe to return home, he took up residence at Coblenz in Germany. He married a local girl, it was not a happy marriage for the lady at any rate, Zoffany is said to have been unkind to her.

Unable to establish himself as an artist in Germany, Zoffany moved again, this time to England in about 1760. His initial struggles included time spent as a painter of clock dials, these clocks now being collector's items, and apprenticeship to an artist called Benjamin Wilson. Zoffany was not very happy in Wilson's employment but, being a lover of theatre, made the acquaintance of the many theatre and acting types who frequented Wilson's London studio. And that was how he came to the notice of David Garrick, the theatrical personality and impresario. Followed membership of the Society of Artists, many commissions for Conversation Pieces and portraits, including "theatrical" portrayals, then election to the Royal Academy as one of the original members (see below his portrait of the academicians, the artist having put himself at left extreme) and Zoffany soon came to attention of King George III. This was to lead to a visit to Italy and to the production of the Tribuna of the Uffizi, a Conversation Piece by Royal Commission. Of that more anon, let us go first go with Zoffany to Lucknow.

John Maddison : Zoffany 1783






Academicians of the Royal Academy : Zoffany 1771 -- 72
(to see the image in all its glory go to the Royal Collection)


The bottom having dropped out of the home market for Conversation Pieces by about 1780, due to overkill no doubt, Zoffany decided to go to India to make his fortune. He put up the necessary sureties to the East India Company and got permission to make the journey to India. One of the sureties was John Maddison, stockbroker and a member of the Goldsmith's Company, whose portrait Zoffany drew. Maddison also took care of Zoffany's affairs during the latter's absence in India. Zoffany was not permitted by the Company to travel on board an East Indiaman for some reason but managed to circumvent this restriction by signing up as a Midshipman aboard a company vessel.
In Calcutta

Zoffany arrived in Calcutta in September 1783 after an eight month voyage, including a month en route in Madras, and soon found his way to Lucknow. He knew the artist William Hodges who was touring India at the time. It is likely that Hodges had written to him about the fabled wealth of Lucknow in Oudh and the rich pickings to be had there. It is also known that Zoffany met Hodges when he arrived in Calcutta, so it is probable that the latter gave him introductions to people in Lucknow . The month in Madras had been useful in gaining an intro from the Governor, George Macartney, to the Governor General, Warren Hastings. That, in any case, is the documented story but we must not forget that, by 1784, Zoffany was nearly 50, a Royal Academician, no less and painter to George III, so I would think the Macartney introduction was just by the way. Anyhow his acquaintance with the Governor General resulted in a number of commissions in Calcutta including some from Hastings himself.

18th Century Lucknow

Hastings paid a farewell visit to Lucknow in the spring of 1784 and Zoffany joined him in June of that year. The Kingdom of Oudh (in reality a Nawabi or Viceroyship for the Moghul Emperor), with Lucknow as the capital, had been founded in about 1725. The Nawabs paid only nominal allegiance to the Emperor but their independence was curtailed in 1764 when the ruling Nawab, Shuja ud Dowla, tried conclusions with the British in the Battle of Buxar. The British retained Shuja ud Dowlah as Nawab but extracted annual tribute from him and also posted a Resident at Lucknow. The Nawab retained his powers within Oudh but had to defer to the British in matters of defence and also had to pay for an army they maintained in Lucknow for his "protection". The ruling Nawab in 1784 was Asoph ud Dowla who had succeeded Shuja in 1775.

Asoph ud Dowla, dissolute and indulgent, was given to the pleasures of the table and of the bedstead, with a reported harem 1500 strong. In spite of which he did not father an offspring and the successor to the throne was Vizier Ali (whom we have already met, see post below on Benares), an adopted son. Asoph's 22 year reign was one of extravagance and downright decadence but it was also a period in which he encouraged the arts and the famous pehle aap (after you) culture of Lucknow may be said to date from his time. He aslo had a court of hangers-on, unusually, many of them British and European with the most notable being Claude Martin.

A description of the character of the Nawab by Louis Ferdinand Smith from the Asiatic Register 1804 : " He is mild in manners, generous to extravagance, affably polite and engaging in his conduct; but he has not great mental powers, though his heart is good. He is fond of lavishng his treasures on gardens, palaces, horses, elephants and, above all, on fine European gems, lustres, mirrors, and all sorts of European manufactures, more especially English, from a 2 d deal board painting of ducks and drakes to elegant paintings of a Lorraine or a Zoffany, and from a dirty little paper lantern to mirrors and lustres which cost up to Pounds 3000 each".



Asoph ud Dowla (Watercolour said to be after Zoffany)

Claude Martin (1735 - 1800)

When it comes to judging Claude Martin I am reminded of the story of the cabaret master (or presenter) who quoted Shakespeare : "Ladies and Gentleman, what you are going to see is neither good nor bad; only thinking makes it so". He was born near Lyon, enlisted as a soldier with the French East India Company in 1751 and arrived in Pondicherry shortly thereafter. There is a family anecdote about how, when news of his enlisting reached home, his stepmother ran to the depot to bring him back but Martin refused, saying he wanted to go and make his fortune in a foreign country. At which, she boxed his ears, saying in tears : "Go, you obstinate one, but don't ever come back except in a carriage", and gave him a purse of 24 coins.


Claude Martin by Francesco Renaldi

Well, seek his fortune Martin did but only after changing sides from the French to the British in about 1760. By this time the French were on their last legs in India and our soldier of fortune, by a side-ways shuffling of the feet as it were, switched his allegiance. He did serve his new masters well and earned their confidence, seeing action in a number of skirmishes with local rulers both in South India and in Bengal, including Buxar in 1764. After a period spent on the Indian Survey under James Rennell, Martin went back to soldiering, this time to quell some trouble from the Bhutanese on the border. That he was guilty of looting the treasury in Bhutan is a charge often levelled at Martin but that is not the only way he enriched himself. By the early 1770's Martin was permanently established in Lucknow, first as Surveyor under Rennell and later as Superintendent of the Arsenal. And when Asoph ud Dowla acceded to the throne in 1775, Martin also managed to worm his way into the Nawab's inner circle of Europeans.

The Nawab's Inner Circle


Probably the foremost among the inner circle of Asoph ud Dowla was Martin. As the Nawab was fond of things European, chandeliers, sculpture, china, objets de art Martin saw to it that he became purveyor in chief to Asoph. This was perhaps the principal means of his personal enrichment. But there were other facets to Martin as well, such as his endowment of three schools in his name, the La Martiniere in Lucknow, Calcutta and Lyon. The two in India are certainly among the best boarding schools in the country to this day. The one in Lucknow is housed in Constantia, the palatial home Martin had built for himself.



La Martiniere in Lucknow

But there were other notable Europeans as well in the circle of Asoph ud Dowla. Firstly, Col John Mordaunt, Chief of the Nawab's Bodyguard and the illegitimate son of the 4th Earl of Peterborough. Schooling had not done much for his three R's as is clear from a letter he wrote to his friend : "You may kip the hos as long as you lik". Unfitted as he was for a learned or respectable profession, a cadetship in the East India Company was secured for him. A t some point in time in India, Mordaunt became an ADC to Hastings and thus had the opportunity to be presented once to Asoph ud Dowla. It is believed that that is how he entered the Nawab's service. More than a head of the household bodyguard, he seems to have been a social secretary and master of ceremonies (and revelries) to Asoph ud Dowla. The Nawab regarded Mordaunt as a friend, not surprising if the accounts of the low tastes of the two men are to be believed.

There were two other intimates of the Nawab, Col Antoine Polier and John Wombwell, both servants of the East India Company in Lucknow. Polier was French but born in Switzerland in 1741. He had been Chief Engineer in Calcutta at one time but by about 1780 had become resident architect in Lucknow. And Wombwell was a man from Yorkshire, employed as the Company's Accountant n Lucknow. Here is a picture by Zoffany of the friends at ease, one among the fine Rogues' Galleries the artist excelled in painting :



At Ease : Polier, Martin & Wombwell (Zoffany in the Background) : Zoffany 1786 - 87

Col Antoine Polir & Friends : Zoffany 1786 - 87

I love this picture, almost as much as I do the Cock Match and some of Zoffany's other masterpieces (like the Tribuna and the Academicians). Firstly, it is big, some 55 x 72 inches. Next, it shows a group of friends at their ease, lounging around. The scene is said to be Polier's house. Claud Martin is the focus of the picture and he is seen explaining to Wombwell, to his left, a set of plans believed to be those of the house he constructed for himself (now the La Martiniere school in Lucknow). Don't fail to note the Indian servant holding up the plans for inspection. To the left is Col Antoine Polier inspecting some fruits or other produce, presumably from his gardens, being proffered by his servants. And don't fail to note that the servant at extreme left has elephantiasis of the leg!

This oil is in the Victoria Memorial collection in Calcutta, purchased and presented to it, if I remember right, by Lord Curzon.

Zoffany has put himself,as was his wont, into the picture. He is sketching in the background but facing us and it looks as though he has three of his other paintings on the wall. Then the monkey next to him, holding aloft a banana. Truly, a depiction of friends at ease and very topical too.

The author Rosie Llewellyn Jones, rightly celebrated for her triad of wonderful books on Nawabi Lucknow, suggests in an article that Zoffany has put the monkey in the picture to illustrate the European plundering the riches of Oudh or of the East. Maybe, on the other hand, maybe not. Why couldn't the monkey have been simply a pet monkey kept by Polier? Zoffany was not above making a point or two or above putting a little joke into his paintings but I wonder if, given his times and his friendships with the subjects of the pic, this "allegory" came to his mind.

Back to the Cock Match & the Dramatis Personae



The context to the picture out of the way, it is time to look at the content. Firstly, this is another shot of the engraving I own but both this pic and the earlier one have been tricked up on Picasa, each according to my whim of the moment (the real difference is that the former was shot by me in artificial light and this one here by Shivakumar in the open in afternoon light, the former is good for enlarging and seeing the detail, the one immediately above for an idea of the engraving as it actually looks).

Alright, what have we here, what is going on in the picture? First, it is a busy scene, a crowded scene. And it is a big engraving (the original oil at the Tate is even larger). Asoph ud Dowla loved cock fights, elephant fights and perhaps all forms of sport in which he did not have to do any of the work. And the Europeans were not averse to a bit of "good, clean, innocent" fun in this way, being used to cock fights in their own countries.

The occasion is a cock match between the birds of Mordaunt and those belonging to the Nawab. Hastings was witness to such a match on his arrival in Lucknow in April 1784 and is believed to have asked Zoffany to record another such occasion for him. The picture that Zoffany drew is sheer drama and comic theatre.

In this disorderly and somewhat unruly scene, we can make out the Nawab and Col Mordaunt quite clearly. The rotund, roly poly figure of Asoph ud Dowla is moving, arms outstretched in greeting, towards Mordaunt who is portrayed sauntering into the arena in his shirtsleeves, striking a nonchalant, casual posture. I can almost hear the two of them uttering endearing but foul imprecations and lewd entreaties to each other, such banter being known to be a feature of their relationship.

The European contingent is seated, or standing, mostly under a small awning to the right of the drawing, a sort of dress circle for the privileged. Many of them affect languid airs, seemingly unconcerned with the proceedings and intent on conversation among themselves. To the extreme right of the picture, there is a group of three Europeans in animated discussion about the birds that two of them are holding. The fat Englishman in the group, sitting down, is Lt Golding. Next to him, bird in hand, is Robert Gregory, an assistant at the Lucknow Residency who had already been warned by his father that if he continued to gamble on cock fights he would be cut off from the inheritance. As luck would have it, years later, when Gregory Senior was walking past a shopfront in the Strand he chanced to see the Earlom engraving of the Cock Match in the shop window, recognised his son and promptly cut him off from his will with the entire estate going to a younger son. Candid canvas!!

The usual suspects are all there. Claud Martin, prominent in the red coat, is sitting on a Diwan talking to Trevor (later Sir Trevor) Wheeler, an assistant at the Residency. Antoine Polier (clean shaven in this pic), in a brown coat, is seen standing at the left of the Dress Circle. Sitting in front of him, holding a Hooka, is John Wombwell. Zoffany, as he often had a habit of doing, has put himself in the picture, he has his right arm over the back of his chair, has turned round to face us, sketching pencil poised at the ready in his right hand. Standing with hand on Zoffany's shoulder is Ozias Humphrey, another artist who was in Lucknow at the time.

Is that all ? Don't fail to note the courtiers, the servants and the Nautch girls or dancers in the left background all perfectly delineated. And middle of the picture, just below the awning for the Europeans, is a Hindu pederast fondling a Muslim boy in skull cap, much to the indignation of a lunging courtier who is being restrained by another man. And lots of other detail and caricaturing of interest, just click and enlarge to see for yourself.

I recently came across a book on the Indian influence in British art of the 18th and 19th centuries. The two authors of the book say that the vacant place on the Diwan next to the one that the Nawab has just vacated (to greet Mordaunt) could have been intended by Zoffany to suggest the presence of Hastings who, given the inquisition against him in England at the time, could not be actually shown to be taking part in such friviolous proceedings. A conclusion too easily, and temptingly, reached it seems to me. What about a seat then for Col Mordaunt, it is more likely the vacant place was meant for him. I am not quibbling for the sake of it but I wonder how right it is to impute notions and constructs when writing history or art history. I, however, agree with the authors when they say "the drawing is sheer comic drama, a kind of mock battle between Europe and Asia fought by chickens representing the two worlds .... so curiously conjoined in Oudh".

Zoffany's Cock Match : The Daylesford & Ashwick Versions

Now, the picture or the engraving of the Cock Match that you see on this post or, for that matter, will see anywhere else is what is known as the Daylesford version, after the place where Warren Hastings lived on his return from India. We already saw that Hastings had commissioned Zoffany to do an oil of the cockfight at Lucknow and the artist did draw one and ship it to Hastings. The ship was wrecked en route to England, or so the story goes, and the painting did not reach Hastings. When, on his return to England, Zoffany came to know of the loss he shrugged it off, saying that the lost picture would do for Neptune's gallery : "that ancient collector but sorry connoisseur", and proceeded to do another one for Hastings. Luckily he had his original sketch with him and was able to work up a full fledged drawing. So, that is the Daylesford or Hastings version and the actual oil now hangs in the Tate Gallery.

Now, there are records of two other versions of the Cock Match which Zoffany had done for the Nawab. The Nawab had perhaps seen the sketch and wanted a drawing for himself or equally, because artists like Zoffany would want to milk the maximum out of any sketch, the artist put the idea into his head. Why two copies were ordered is very much a question to be asked but it seems there were two at Lucknow. One of them, which came to be known as the Ashwick version, was gifted by Asoph ud Dowla's successor, Ghauzi-ud-din Hyder, to Richard Strachey, Resident at Lucknow in 1815 - 17. This was brought to England and became the Ashwick version after the place in Somerset where Strachey lived. Here, below, is the Ashwick version :



Cock Match : Ashwick Version

Almost identical to the Daylesford one but with a lightly sketched in or reduced cast of Extras. But, in essence, it is the same Cock Match, the Firanghis are all there, as is our friend the pederast and the indignant courtier. So, there were two versions with the Nawab in Lucknow of which one, the Ashwick above, was given to Strachey (a grand uncle of Lytton Strachey)in 1817. The other version remained in Lucknow until the Mutiny of 1857 when it was presumed destroyed. But there is enough evidence in print, including by Fanny Parkes, of the existence Ashwick and Lucknow versions. The Ashwick version, as far as I know, last came to notice at a 1915 auction in Sotheby's when it was bought by an unknown buyer. I have no idea if it changed hands since then or, even, if it still exists.

One puzzling thing is, of course, why would the Nawab want two copies of the same painting bu that is not so problematic as the next question (after all the Nawab may have liked the picture sufficiently to want two copies or replicas). And that next puzzle is why the historians and the art historians have gone totally silent about this version. Out of sight is out of mind perhaps as, to the extent I know, no one has sighted the Ashwick for many years but its authenticity is very much in doubt now (at least to me, the figures don't look like Zoffanys, in fact the drawing seems to be a copy by someone else).

Zoffany left India after six years, after spending over half of his time there in Lucknow and the richer by about Pounds 50 thousand (probably about 3 to 5 Million Pounds in today's money).

The Tribuna of the Uffizi


We need to jump farther back in time to discuss the Tribuna of the Uffizi. This, in one way of looking at the subject, could have been a separate post. But, I wanted to out with it all in one post, so that we have something to compare with the Cock Match and to see a little more of Zoffany's output. Also, the subject of Zoffany and the Tribuna is topical as I will explain at the end.

Mind you, while I know a little bit about the Cock Match I know even less about the Tribuna but I was lucky to find a book which is available on the Internet Archive : Johann Zoffany R.A by G.C.Williamson, published in about 1900. This plus what I knew, supplemented by an excellent key I found on a site on the Net : The Gentlemanly Hang is what I write below.

First, the arresting, spellbinding picture drawn by Zoffany :



The Tribuna of the Uffizi : Zoffany 1771 - 72

Very briefly, Zoffany decided in about early 1771 to visit Italy. This was because an assignment to accompany Captain Cook on his voyage to the South Seas fell through due to no fault of the artist. When Zoffany let his intention to visit Italy be known, came a Royal request that he make a sketch of the gallery in Florence, should he visit that city. It was the wish of Quenn Charlotte and George III seems to have endorsed the idea. Zoffany was to be paid the expenses of the journey and Pounds 300 a year for the length of his visit. This sort of sponsorship and Royal commission was exactly what the artist was looking for and he made good use of the latter, as we shall see.

Zoffany duly reached Florence and, given the Royal commission in his pocket, was presented at court and offered all assistance and facility by the Grand Duke of Tuscany to produce the picture. Ever the thrusting upstart emigre from Europe, Zoffany hardly needed such encouragement because, styling himself the Queen's painter, he threw his weight about at the gallery or the Tribuna as it is called, commandeering the place, restricting public access at times and ordering not only the hang to be changed but insisting that pictures and sculpture housed elsewhere be brought in and displayed in the gallery for the purpose of his composition.

It was good that he did so, because he seems to have given his all to the composition and making of the drawing and the result is a riveting, stunning view, a piece for endless conversation. Here is the key I found on the Net and, rather than belabour this post with my second hand accounts of the English grandees in the picture, I will let you work the details out with this key :



The Key to the Tribuna of the Uffizi

Still, there are a few notable things to say. Firstly, that Zoffany is again in the picture (No : 4 in the Key), he is in the left background, head peeping out from behind a picture he is holding out for inspection by the small group that surrounds him. Zoffany is, of course, trying to interest the group in the picture which is a Raphael, perhaps more correctly Raffael, of the Madonna and Child. Zoffany apparently bought this Raphael for a nominal price and is trying to sell it. And No : 1 in the key, the man in the brown coat who is facing Zoffany is George Nassau Clavering-Cowper, the 3rd Earl Cowper who bought this picture.

George, the 3rd Earl Cowper (1738 - 89) was a man who arrived in Italy on the customary Grand Tour and never left it. Even aftr he succeeded to the Earldom and its large estate, he continued to live, and finally to die, in Italy. Zoffany also painted a portrait of the Earl and I put a replica or copy of it below, in this picture he is a jaunty, dashing, florid faced grandee doffing his cocked hat to someone :



Jaunty Grandee : George, 3rd Earl Cowper ( drawing after Zoffany)

Now, the Earl is said to have paid a high price for this Raphael and also endowed an annuity of a Hundred Pounds a year on Zoffany for life, which the artist drew for nearly 40 years. It is said to be a genuine Raphael but public opinion wasn't so unanimous apparently. I scarcely associated the following number in the Pirates of Penzance with the Zoffany picture until I read the Williamson book linked above :

I can tell a genuine Raphael from Gerard Dow's or Zoffany's
I know the Croaking Chorus from the Frogs of Aristophanes

Gilbert & Sullivan


The scoundrel in Zoffany also made a tidy packet out of the desire of the prominent Englishmen visitin or residing in Florence to appear in the picture. He would paint them in on request, only to rub them out of the picture as soon as they had left Florence. And if any of the visitors should give him offence, he had his revenge by scrubbing the offender out of the picture!

All this was to no avail, for when Zoffany got back to England after an extended trip to Vienna the King and Queen were not exactly pleased with the picture. For one thing, the artist got back to England only in 1778, after a long interval of 7 years plus. Secondly, the Royals thought the picture too crowded and with some perssons included in it who were not exactly very popular at court. Finally the Queen is said to have bought the painting after some years, paying 600 Guineas for it, far less than the 3000 that Zoffany had hoped for. It was never hung in the Queen's chambers but is now getting a revival.

The Conversation Piece : An Exhibition in the UK Based on Zoffany's Drawings

And that is what makes Zoffany topical, as I discovered to my surprise and pleasure when Googling around for stuff on the Tribuna. The Royal Collection is holding an exhibition on the theme of the Conversation Piece, centred around the drawings of Johann Zoffany. The exhibition is, first, at Holyrood House, Edinburgh from the 27th March to the 30th September and, next, from 30th Oct to Fbe 2010 in London at the Buckingham Palace. I will certainly make it a point to catch the Tribuna at the Exhibition (the Cock Match won't be there I am afraid, unless they decide to include borrowed exhibits from the Tate), perhaps in London. One picture I would specially like to see is the Zoffany below, of Charles Towneley and Friends, painted in 1783 just before the artist left for India. I like Zoffany's use of the light in this picture, the way he lets it fall on the subjects of the drawing :



Charles Towneley & Friends : Zoffany

Why a post on Zoffany, artist and upstart scoundrel rolled into one. He is the master of the conversation piece, a master of detail and of irreverence, not above putting in a subtle or not so subtle joke when composing his masterpieces. Consider the vignette in the Tribuna of Zoffany selling a pic (pup?) to the Earl, remember that his drawings are dotted about with the odd pederast or a black monkey or a morally outraged courtier or a group of poker faced Royal Academicians staring critically at nude models. Above all, see the delineation of features, maybe of character too, in his paintings and the stunning detail in the Tribuna where you can even see the fluting and whorls on the picture frames.

To really appreciate the Tribuna, go to this page of the Royal Collection to see the zoomable image. That is, if you don't plan to see the exhibition or, perhaps, even if you do.

To, see a similar zoomable image of the Academicians at the Royal Academy, in all its depth and dimension, go to this page of the Royal Collection (if you do, you will end up seeing the exhibition, no matter what you think now).

To learn what was going on in 18th Century Nawabi Lucknow there are many period books as well as historical accounts, but get yourself the three absorbing books on the theme written by Rosie Llewellyn Jones which are of the historical account variety :

1. A Fatal Friendship
2. An Ingenious Man (the Life of Claud Martin)
2. Engaging Scoundrels

To really dive into Zoffany's life and work, also to understand the genre of Conversation Pieces get yourself the Exhibition Catalogue. I have already ordered my copy.



Zoffany : Self Portrait

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