Artist
Johann Zoffany
German painter and engraver

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Johann Zoffany
German painter and engraver

Birth Date

1733

Death Date

1810

Contributor

Johann Zoffany is probably the only cannibal bigamist ever to paint the Queen of England. 

 

This German-born artist and adventurer has been described accurately as “The first and last Royal Academician to become a cannibal,” favorably as the “Jane Austen of English Painting,” and critically as “a thoroughly bad painter.”  But we can be sure of one thing…the guy knew how to have a good time.

 

 

At the age of 13, Zoffany walked solo from Germany to Rome to study with the masters.  There he refined his technical skills and partied with the Eternal City’s artistic playboys.  Returning to Germany, he married an innkeeper’s daughter with a dowry big enough to book his passage to Britain.  She went packing back to Germany when it became clear Zoffany had no intention of keeping his breeches buckled.

 

 

Zoffany’s teenaged mistress may have had something to do with this realization.  Though he hadn’t officially divorced, Zoffany openly declared the girl his wife and lived with her in common-law marriage (or as the Catholic Church likes to call it, “Sin!”).  In England, he got commissions to paint the likes of Queen Charlotte and London theatrical stars, but “serious” painters like Joshua Reynolds pooh-poohed his coldly realistic technique.  As his work went out of fashion, Zoffany decided to get out of town.

 

 

When his hopes of becoming the expedition painter on Captain Cook’s voyage to the South Seas didn’t pan out, Zoffany set sail for India.  Wife #2 stayed at home of course, which gave him the perfect opportunity to knock up his Indian mistress with a brood of bastards.  He was also reportedly “rolling in gold dust” from painting wealthy colonials and Indian Aristocrats. 

 

 

Zoffany loved a good argument, and painted naughty caricatures of people he disliked or disagreed with.  During his India period, he painted an Indian Prince (who never had sex with any of his 500 wives) with a raging erection as he watches a cockfight with his gay boyfriend.  He also painted a parody of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, featuring members of the Colonial elite, including a very pretty British magistrate (and known transvestite) in a blatantly homoerotic pose with Jesus. Scandalous!

 

 

On his return trip to England Zoffany was shipwrecked.  He and fellow survivors cast lots to see who got to be dinner.  An unlucky sailor drew the short straw, so we can say in all seriousness that Johann Zoffany once tasted seaman.

 

 

Whether or not he was the Jane Austen of British Art or a thoroughly bad painter, we at Sartle are eternally grateful to Johann Zoffany for almost certainly being the only artist in history to juggle wives, eat a dude, paint a queen, a boner and Jesus Christ’s boy-toy.  Move over Andres Serrano…Piss Christ ain’t got nothin’ on this guy.

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Johan Zoffany

Johan Joseph Zoffany, RA (born Johannes Josephus Zaufallij, 13 March 1733[1] – 11 November 1810) was a German neoclassical painter, active mainly in England. His works appear in many prominent British collections such as the National Gallery, London, the Tate Gallery and in the Royal Collection. His name is sometimes spelled Zoffani or Zauffelij (on his grave, it is spelled Zoffanij).

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Johan Zoffany.