JOHAN JOSEPH ZOFFANY, R.A.
1733 - 1810
THE ARTIST’S DAUGHTER, CECILIA, SEATED AT A WRITING DESK
inscribed in black chalk, Cicilia [sic] (lower right)
black, red and white chalk on grey paper
unframed: 38 by 25cm.,15 by 9¾in.
framed: 58 by 46cm., 22¾ by 18in.
Executed circa 1796.
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Not examined unframed. Repaired loss, top right corner. Small repair, bottom centre edge. 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.11
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.
In this sensitive and highly finished drawing from circa 1796, Zoffany depicts his daughter, Cecilia Clementina Eliza (1779-1830). The girl, who by all accounts was extremely beautiful, wears a fashionable dress and a laced black hat. She sits at an elegant desk, half silhouetted by the strong light of the window. Pen in hand, perhaps writing or drawing, she is deep in concentration.
As a young man Zoffany had married Anthonie Theophista Juliane Eiselein, the daughter of a court official in Wurzburg, however the couple became estranged and she returned to Germany soon after 1760, when Zoffany moved to England. In London, he met Mary Thomas (c.1755- 1832), the daughter of a glovemaker, who followed Zoffany to Italy where they married in secret. The couple had a son, who sadly died in infancy, and four daughters who lived full lives. Cecilia Clementina Elizabeth was their second eldest daughter. She was born in Albemarle Street, Mayfair but along with her sisters, she spent much of her childhood in Chiswick. In 1799 she married Thomas Horne, the son of a prominent schoolmaster and clergyman. Although the couple went on to have eight children, their marriage was not a happy one and it ended in separation.