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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Johan Joseph Zoffany (Frankfurt 1733-London 1810)

The Academicians of the Royal Academy 1771-72

RCIN 400747

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The Royal Academy was founded by George III in 1768 to nurture and promote artistic production in Britain. The forty Academicians were to be distinguished painters, sculptors or architects. Initially the Royal Academy had no permanent home, but in 1771 the king made available rooms in Somerset House. In the same year he probably commissioned Zoffany, whom he had personally nominated a member in 1769, to record the Academicians. They are here shown – in place of the students – gathered to watch the Keeper of the Academy, George Moser, arrange a male nude. Francesco Zuccarelli, one hand on his knee, checks the positioning, as does Richard Yeo, the medallist, who stands directly under the lamplight. To left of centre, hand on chin, is Dr William hunter, Professor of Anatomy at the Academy and obstetrician to the Queen. Listening to the President, Sir Joshua Reynolds, who holds an ear trumpet, is Sir William Chambers, the Treasurer, and next to him is Francis Milner Newton, the Secretary. Seated far left is Zoffany himself, with his palette and brushes. Behind him leans Benjamin West, who was to succeed Reynolds as President in 1792, and Tan-che-qua, a Chinese modeller, who was a visitor to the Schools of the Royal Academy in 1771. To the right of him are the miniaturist Jeremiah Meyer, Dominic Serres, and – in conversation with each other – Paul and Thomas Sandby. Two Royal Academicians were not included in the painting: Thomas Gainsborough and George Nathaniel Dance. Nude models precluded the physical presence of the two female Academicians, Mary Moser and Angelica Kauffmann, who are represented by painted portraits on the wall on the right, behind one of the most recently elected Academicians, the fashion-conscious Richard Cosway, cane in hand.