Johann Zoffany R.A. 1733-1810
- Johann Zoffany R.A.
- Portrait of John Yorke and Colonel Coore
- oil on canvas
Lady Victoria Manners and G.C. Williamson, John Zoffany R.A., 1920, pp. 157, 246, illus. opposite p. 230;
Anne Ashley Cooper, Yorke Country, 1988, p.166, illus. pt. 29 and on the cover (a copy of this book is included with the lot)
This fine conversation piece was painted by Zoffany in circa 1769. It shows two friends fishing on the banks of the river Nidd in North Yorkshire. Seated to the right with his dog is John Yorke (1733-1813), who owned substantial estates in the area and who commissioned the picture. To his left is his friend Thomas Coore in the uniform of the 54th Foot, which he had joined as a lieutenant in 1764. In his fishing net is a perch, which has just been caught from the river Nidd.
The Yorkes were a distinguished Yorkshire family, whose roots in the country go back to the fifteenth century. Sir Richard Yorke (c.1435-1498) was a prominent merchant, who was knighted by Henry VII and became Lord Mayor of the City of York and Mayor of the Staple at Calais (a post which involved control of the important trade in the city). His grandson Sir John Yorke (c.1490-1568) lived in London, where he traded prosperously and was one of the ‘merchant adventurers to Moscovy’. He was knighted by Edward VI in 1549, and was made Master of the Royal Mint. He began a four hundred year association between the Yorke family and Nidderdale when, in 1547, he purchased an estate there. His descendant John Yorke, the sitter in the present picture, was the son of Thomas Yorke (1688-1768), M.P. for Richmond, and his wife Abigail, daughter of William Andrews of Barneshall in Worcestershire. He was brought up at Hatton Gardens in London and at the family’s house at Helperby in Yorkshire, and was educated at Kingston-on-Thames and at Clare Hall, Cambridge. In 1763 he married the beautiful Sophia, daughter of Sir John Glynne Bt. of Hawarden Castle. They had met whilst he was at Cambridge, though his father forced him to wait until he was thirty before they married. Following the death of their daughter in 1764, they travelled to Spain and Portugal in an attempt to enable Sophia to recover her health, but she died on board ship on the way back to England and was buried at Falmouth in 1766. John Yorke remained a widower for three years and it was in this period that the present portrait was painted. In 1769 he married Elizabeth Woodstock, daughter of Peter Campbell of Kilmory, Argyllshire and of Fish River, Hanover, Jamaica. They lived mainly at The Green, the Yorke’s house in Richmond, and at Bewerley Hall in Nidderdale overlooking the river Nidd (see fig.1). Yorke added the two East Towers to Bewerley Hall, as well as a morning room and a room above it, built a folly on the top of a hill near Guisecliffe, and laid out walks in Ravensgill and Fishpond wood. He was a philanthropist, known locally as ‘The Poor Mans’ Friend’, and was generous in his assistance with local education. In 1767, he became a Commissioner in charge of the navigation of the river Ure, which was made navigable in order to move coal to the port of Boroughbridge.
His friend Thomas Coore came from a prominent Liverpool family, his grandfather being Thomas Coore an Alderman of the City. His military career began in 1760 when he was commissioned Lieutenant in Captain Alexander Wood’s independent Company, later amalgamated to form Sir Charles Grey’s 98th Foot. In 1764 he became Lieutenant in the 54th Foot, rising to Captain in 1770, Major in 1778 and Lieutenant Colonel in 1780. Judging by his uniform, he was painted by Zoffany as a Lieutenant. He died in 1821 without issue, and his property passed to his nephew Colonel Forster Lechmere Coore (1780-1837), who had married Harriet Gale in 1816. Through this marriage he inherited Scruton Hall and its estates, situated close to Bewerley.