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Title Portrait of Sophia Dumergue
Collection Victoria Art Gallery, Bath
Artist Zoffany, Johann (German painter, 1733-1810, active in England)
Date Earliest about 1780
Date Latest about 1780
Description Sophia Dumergue (1768-1831) is depicted at about 12 years of age. She is pictured three-quarter length, and sits leaning slightly forward and gazing directly at the viewer. She is attired in an oyster pink gown, black shawl and white leather gloves (one removed). Her dark hair is loose, although she wears an elaborate bonnet of white lace, ribbon, and silk roses. Her pet cat sits in her lap.
Current Accession Number BATVG:P:1998.1
Subject Portrait (Sophia Dumergue); animal (cat)
Measurements 76 x 61.5 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased from descendents of the Dumergue family 1998.
Provenance Collection of Charles Dumergue c. 1780-1814; by descent to Sophia Dumergue 1814-1831; by descent to Edward Dumergue 1831-1887.
Principal Exhibitions Johan Zoffany, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1977, cat. no. 93.
Publications M. Webster Johan Zoffany 1733-1610, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1977, pp. 71-72, cat. 93; National Art Collections Fund, , National Art Collections Fund 1998 Review, 1999, cat. no. 4628.
Notes About a decade before this portrait was painted, Sophia Dumergue moved to England from France with her father Charles (1739-1814), who was an eminent dental surgeon with the entourage of the French Ambassador. In London, Charles was appointed dental surgeon to the court of George III. Charles and Sophia moved in literary and scientific circles, and Sophia hosted salons. Their associates included Zoffany, Sir Walter Scott, and the Birmingham industrialist Matthew Boulton. After the Revolution, a number of French émigrés stayed in the Dumergues' Piccadilly home; one of their guests was a Mlle Charpentier who married Scott in 1797. Sophia was entrusted with purchasing clothes and other items for their wedding, and became godmother to the couple's daughter Charlotte in 1799. Sophia never married and lived with her father until his death in 1814.

The Victoria Art Gallery is also in possession of the contemporary portrait by Zoffany of Charles Dumergue (1980.71).

In his will of 1814, Charles made his daughter Sophia his principal heir, to inherit the property in Piccadilly and all its contents; in her own will of 1 May 1830, Sophia left ‘to my much beloved [second;] cousin E. Dumergue, my snuff boxes, prints and pictures.' In both cases it is reasonable to suppose the property included the Zoffany portraits.

The work was offered for sale at Christie's (late 1980s and early 1990s) and Sotheby's (15 July 1992, cat. 36), but it remained unsold on each occasion. In 1998 it was acquired by Victoria Art Gallery by private treaty, with assistance from the National Art Collections Fund, the Museums and Galleries Commission, Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, and the Friends of the Victoria Art Gallery.
Rights Owner Victoria Art Gallery, Bath
Author Dr Susan Steer
 

 

 

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