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Title The Porter and the Hare
Collection Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry
Artist Zoffany, Johann (German painter, 1733-1810, active in England)
Date 1768
Signed yes
Description A scene showing a porter holding a hare with two school boys against a plain background. The porter scratches his head as if perplexed. When this work (or another version of it) was exhibited, a newspaper stated that the picture showed 'two School Boys reading the direction on a Hare to a Porter'. The implication is that the porter cannot read and must rely upon the two boys to read the destination of the hare. The label on the hare indicates that it is intended for the artist, 'Mr. Zoffany, of Lincoln's Inn Fields'. The smaller boy to the left eats a sandwich whilst the other reads the label. The sandwich had only recently been invented, earlier in the decade by John Montague, 4th Earl of Sandwich, allegedly to save time on dining while engaged in all night gambling. The children may be portraits as it was fashionable to have one's children painted in such 'fancy pictures'. According to a tradition, the boys in the picture were the sons of the Baskerville family of Crawley Park who may have commissioned the work. Another story tells that Zoffany witnessed the scene from his window and, at once, committed it to canvas (Manners and Williamson, p. 19)
Current Accession Number VA/1955/0563
Former Accession Number 563/55 HAG857
Inscription front (on letter held by the boy) 'Zu Zaffely'
Subject figure (porter, schoolboys); everyday life; portrait ?
Measurements 76.2 x 63 cm.0 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Given by the National Art-Collections Fund from the collection of Ernest Cook 1955.
Provenance James Sayer sale, Christie's, 24 May 1802, as 'Zoffani. A porter with the hare, well known by the print of it, 3 ft x 2 3/4ft', bought by Cooke, 40 19s (possibly other version;); Christie's sale, 25 February 1905, lot 110 as Two Boys, and Porter Carrying a Hare (30 x 25 inches) anonymous donor, bought by Colnaghi for 54 12s 0d. Col. Baskerville.
Principal Exhibitions Society of Artists, London, 1769, cat. no. 213 (or another version); Spink & Son, 1948; Gifts to Galleries from the National Art Collections Fund, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1968; Zoffany, National Portrait Gallery, 1977, cat. no. 45; Angels and Urchins, The Fancy Picture in 18th century British Art, Djanogly Gallery, University of Nottingham, 1998, cat. no. 59, col. pl. 41 (touring).
Publications Postle, M. Angels and Urchins: The Fancy Picture in 18th century Britain , 1998.
Notes This is one of two versions of this subject painted by Zoffany. Other copies exist but these two seem to be by Zoffany himself. The other was at Blenheim Palace, then in the collecion of Sir John Vaughan-Morgan Bart. Inscribed on a label on the back of the top bar of the frame 'An Original Drawing by Zaffanie'. Inscribed in ink on the top of the stretcher 'Zafani'. Engraved by R. Earlom. Ernest Cook was grandson of Thomas Cook, founder of the tourist agency. This painting does not feature in the exhibition, A Gift to the Nation. The Fine and Decorative Art Collections of Ernest E Cook bequeathed through the National Art Collections Fund in 1955, Exhibition at the Holbourne Museum and Crafts Study Centre, Bath, 1991. This painting was engraved in mezzotint by Richard Earlom, 1774; in colour, 1780. This version could be the original one displayed in 1769 as Zoffany's name on the hare is spelled 'Zaffely', the original spelling of Zoffany's name which was later anglicised. The Ehrich version is signed 'Mr. Zoffany pictor'.
Rights Owner Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry
Author Dr Patricia Smyth



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