Monday, September 15, 2008

Johann Zoffany

Charles Towneley's Library in Park Street, 1783. Oil on canvas. Towneley Hall Art Gallery, Burnley

Marble athletes, nymphs, gods, goddesses and portrait busts are crammed into the library of the collector. Towneley, seated in the chair on the right, his faithful dog at this feet, is surrounded by fellow antiquaries and connoisseurs. The elegant library contains all the accouterments of the cultured 18th century gentleman with highly refined tastes. The bust of Clytie on the desk is said to have been such a favorite of his that he referred to it as his wife. German by birth, Zoffany (1733-1810) travelled and studied extensively in Italy. He met Towneley in Florence and the 2 men became close friends. Zoffany arrived in London in 1760 and set up as a painter of portraits, interiors and theatrical scenes. In 1783, he went to India where he made his fortune painting portraits. (Butler, Van Cleave and Stirling)

When I first looked at this painting, it was hard to tell who was real and who was a sculpture... it struck me as humorous. Surrounding one's self with all that sculpture would maybe combat loneliness. :) On the flip side, Mr. Towneley was obviously a man of information, wealth and a serious art collector.

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