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Johann Zoffany (1733-1810)

Johann Zoffany was born in Ratisbon, Germany, the son of an architect. He ran away from home at the age of thirteen to study painting and ended up in Rome where he was befriended by a cardinal. After twelve years residence in Italy he returned to Germany, married unhappily and moved to England in 1758. Zoffany lodged in London and was at first living in great poverty. He was introduced to a clock-maker, who employed him to paint landscapes on clock faces. He then moved on to work as a drapery painter.

By 1762 Zoffany had begun to make a reputation as a portrait painter. He exhibited in the Spring of that year and attracted attention with his pieces on theatrical themes. His portraits were popular with George III, who became his patron and for whom he produced a family portrait of Queen Charlotte with the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York. He was engaged in 1770 to accompany Captain Cook on his voyage to the Pacific but withdrew from the venture and moved to Italy in 1772. Zoffany enjoyed success in Italy and Vienna where he was made a baron of the Austrian Empire. He returned to England in 1779 but left for India in 1783. Zoffany spent seven years in the East where he made a considerable sum of money painting portraits and scenes from Anglo-Indian life. Zoffany returned to London in 1790 and died there in November 1810.

Zoffany painted a portrait of John Wesley in about 1760.

Source: Dictionary of National Biography and John Telford, Sayings and Portraits of John Wesley (1924)

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