Johan Zoffany

The Bradshaw Family

exhibited 1769

Johan Zoffany 1733–1810
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1339 × 1763 mm
Bequeathed by Ernest E. Cook through the Art Fund 1955


When this picture was exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769 as A gentleman's family, Horace Walpole noted in his copy of the catalogue that the sitter was 'Mr Bradshaw Secretary of the Treasury'. The portrait depicts the family of Thomas Bradshaw (1733-74), the private secretary to Augustus Henry Fitz-Roy, 3rd Duke of Grafton and Prime Minister after Chatham. Bradshaw, sometime Clerk at the War Office, became Secretary of the Treasury in 1768, Member of Parliament for Saltash, and Lord Commissioner in 1772. He was made a Lord of the Admiralty in 1774; however, in November of that year, suffering from financial worries, he shot himself.

Bradshaw's wife Elizabeth (née Wilson, died 1802), whom he married in 1757, is seated to the right. As identified by Martin Davies (Davies 1959, p.112), the two eldest boys are Bradshaw's sons Barrington (1761-1804), at left flying a kite, and Robert Haldane (1759-1835), at the far right with the pony; the other children are probably Elizabeth (1767-93) and Lawrence (1768-1853). The Bradshaws eventually had seven children. Thomas (born 1763) died young, and Augustus Hill (1769-1851) and Charlotte (1772-3) were born after this picture was made. The second woman, holding up some fruit, has been identified as Bradshaw's sister.

This picture is characteristic of Zoffany's compositional style, as shown by the pyramidal arrangement of the figures with Thomas Bradshaw at the apex, and by the careful use of planes in placement of both figures and landscape. Each person is engaged in an activity, resulting in an animated, if somewhat contrived, grouping. The artist's German training is evident in the painstaking depiction of costume. Set against a background of open countryside, the portrait, as Barbara Milner writes, 'presents that Georgian ideal of family life which was exemplified in the Royal Family' (Milner 1991, p.27).

Further reading:
Martin Davies, National Gallery Catalogues: The British School, London 1959, pp.112-13
Barbara Milner in A Gift to the Nation: The Fine and Decorative Art Collections of Ernest E. Cook, exhibition catalogue, Holburne Museum and Crafts Study Centre, Bath 1991, p.27, reproduced pl.III in colour
John Hayes, The Portrait in British Art, exhibition catalogue, National Portrait Gallery, London 1991, p.106, reproduced p.107 in colour

Terry Riggs
January 1998

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Display caption

Small-scale group portraits like this, known as ‘conversation pieces’, projected an idealised vision of family life. This picture employs a pyramidal arrangement of the figures to express the structure of the family. Thomas Bradshaw (1733–74), a senior civil servant and politician, is shown at the apex of the pyramid. His family is arranged below him. The two women are Bradshaw’s wife, Elizabeth on the right, and, on the left, probably his sister. The two oldest sons are shown at the far left and right of the group. Their position in the composition serves to associate them both with the sheltered space of the family unit, and the outside world.

Gallery label, February 2016

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