JOHAN JOSEPH ZOFFANY, R.A.
1733 - 1810
A FRONTISPIECE FOR AN EXTRAORDINARY GENIUS IN MUSIC
inscribed in black chalk, a frontespic For a Extraordinary Genius / in Music, (lower centre) and bears inscription in brown ink, (: a Frontespice for an extraordinary / Genius in Music :) (lower left)
black chalk, heightened with white, on grey paper
unframed: 40 by 27cm., 15¾ by 10½in.
framed: 58 by 45cm., 22¾ by 17¾in.
Executed circa 1797.
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Not examined unframed. Very light vertical crease down left edge of sheet. One or two other very minor spots towards bottom, and a number of tiny holes (worm?) towards bottom right corner, but overall condition of sheet and chalk otherwise good. Sold in a modern giltwood frame.
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Major-General Claude Martin (1735-1800)
Benjamin Wolff (1790-1866) Collection, until sold
'The Wolff Collection' Sale, Bruun Rasmussen, Copenhagen, 30 May 2018, part of lot 437
London, Andrew Clayton-Payne, From London to Lucknow, A Re-Discovered Collection of Drawings by Johan Zoffany (1733-1810), 2019, cat. no.6
Zoffany’s gift: 1799
Exceptionally, this sale includes fourteen works on paper by Johan Zoffany, R.A (lots, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 42, 43, 70, 71, 89, 90, 91, 103 and 104). The drawings once formed part of a larger group of fifty-three works that Zoffany assembled in the late 1790s and that, in 1799, he sent to India for the attention of his old friend Major-General Claude Martin (1735-1800), a Frenchman whom he had met while working on the subcontinent during the previous decade.
Zoffany’s drawings for Martin were – as with the present group of fourteen – diverse in theme. With images derived from the biblical, mythological, historical and modern worlds, as well as a number of sensitive and intimate portraits, it is thought that the contents of his gift were designed to reflect both men’s interests, humours and tastes.
Claude Martin died in 1800 with no heirs, so his executors arranged for his extensive collections to be sold. The drawing’s next documented owner was Benjamin Wolff (1790-1866), a brilliant Danish lawyer, who lived in Calcutta between 1817 and 1829. During his time in India, Wolff amassed a great fortune and also began to build what would become one of Denmark’s most revered art collections. In 1829, he moved back to Denmark and bought a substantial house called Engelholm Manor on southern Zealand. Here, he housed his collections which, by the end of his life, comprised more than 2,000 drawings from both the European and Indian schools.
After his death in 1866, Wolff’s drawings remained with his descendants for a further five generations. In May 2018, Brunn Rasmussen Auctioneers in Copenhagen held a major sale within which the Zoffanys appeared as one lot and were acquired by the present owner. Despite the fame of Wolff’s collection, its contents had never been published and, until that point, scholars had been unaware of the existence of Zoffany’s drawings. Their re-emergence has caused great excitement in academic circles, as not only does the group triple the number of known surviving works on paper by Zoffany, but the images themselves also act as windows into the mind of one of the greatest artists of the Age of Enlightenment.
This is a preparatory study for a print, engraved by James Stow in 1797, which was used for the title-page to William Southbrook’s publication: Attempts to Compose Six Sonnets and Six Sonatinas.1
The work shows Southbrook, who was only eleven years old when he wrote these compositions, presenting his manuscript to Apollo. Impressed, the god of music has summoned Fame to escort the boy away from Mount Olympus.
1. London, The British Museum, inv. no. 1977,U.1277