JOHAN ZOFFANY, R.A.
The artist by whom given to Major General Claude Martin (1735-1800), Lucknow, India, circa 1799
His sale, Tulloh & Co, Calcutta, 18 December, 1800
Purchased by Benjamin Wolff (1760 - 1866) presumably whilst in Calcutta,1817-1829,
Engelholm Manor, Copenhagen and by descent
Of indisputable importance, this self-portrait was drawn by the artist on Christmas Eve 1796, at the age of sixty-three. This is the most complete and finished of Zoffany's self portraits on paper. Holding his porte-crayon over what we would like to imagine is the present album of drawings, and following the directive found on the title page, he proceeds to 'fill it up with his remarks.'
William Pressly has argued that the artist used the conceit of depicting himself as the philosopher Democritus, traditionally shown with a wry smile, meditatively posed and with a slightly inclined head. The age-old intermixture of melancholy with genius was often found in Renaissance and Baroque portraiture and Zoffany thus seems to have knowingly depicted himself as 'the solitary great man in whom sadness and inspiration were intertwined.'