Storiiies

The biography of a family portrait: Johan Zoffany's painting of the Drummond Family: ca. 1769, Oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art

The Drummond Family ca. 1769, Johan Joseph Zoffany, oil on canvas

The Drummond Family by Johan Joseph Zoffany RA, (1733–1810, German, active in Britain from 1760), ca. 1769, Oil on canvas, 41 x 63 inches (104.1 x 160 cm), Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection: B1977.14.86

This group shows Lady Charlotte (née Beauclerk of the family of the Dukes of St. Albans), Andrew Drummond's daughter-in-law and two of her children Charlotte and George.

The mounted group shows a groom (left) helping the youngest John Drummond, mounted and in a dress as was the way for pre-pubescent children of both sexes at the time. The youngest John is shaking hands with his father, also John. The elder John continued to rise as a banker and became MP for Thetford (1768-74). Jane Diana (right), John and Charlotte's eldest daughter, looks on from her horse. The children's names mostly come from the mother's family - showing the effort to distance themselves from the Scottish rebels.

Andrew Drummond sits in the centre of the painting, looking toward his son and grandson with their horses. This pose is based on a previous portrait of Andrew Drummond by Zoffany and may have had to be copied from that posthumously. Drummond’s expensive snuffbox, his splendid malacca cane with a gold crutch handle, and, most important, the dog are with him. The cane, snuffbox and solo portrait are now owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland - who absorbed Drummond's bank in 1992.

Infrared photograph of The Drummond Family ca. 1769, Johan Joseph Zoffany, oil on canvas

Infrared conservators photograph of The Drummond Family by Johan Joseph Zoffany RA, (1733–1810, German, active in Britain from 1760), ca. 1769, Oil on canvas, 41 x 63 inches (104.1 x 160 cm), Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection: B1977.14.86

In 2010-12 the Yale Center for British art restored and investigated the Drummond family portrait. This is when the biography of the painting began to be revealed. It's clear in this Infra Red photograph that the mounted figures and horses have been extensively repainted. Possibly after feedback from John Drummond or other family members.

Ultraviolet photograph of The Drummond Family ca. 1769, Johan Joseph Zoffany, oil on canvas

Ultraviolet conservators photograph of The Drummond Family by Johan Joseph Zoffany RA, (1733–1810, German, active in Britain from 1760), ca. 1769, Oil on canvas, 41 x 63 inches (104.1 x 160 cm), Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection: B1977.14.86

Under Ultra Violet light other aspects of the overpainting can be seen. More prominent, however are the edges of the canvas patches that overlay the right and left hand groups.

X-ray photograph of The Drummond Family ca. 1769, Johan Joseph Zoffany, oil on canvas

X-ray conservators photograph of The Drummond Family by Johan Joseph Zoffany RA, (1733–1810, German, active in Britain from 1760), ca. 1769, Oil on canvas, 41 x 63 inches (104.1 x 160 cm), Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection: B1977.14.86

In all, we can see that this well-executed but slightly unengaging painting is part of a bigger story: a family on the rise. Fathers and sons trying to build their reputation and through business, marriage, art and politics. Breaking from their roots and putting on just the right show for the world.

Beneath the canvas patches both Johns, father and son, are shown in a much closer pose and very different outfits. Originally there was only a single horse and Jane Diana was not depicted.

On the right the patches cover less drastic changes apart from the ghostly figure of a much shorter George (right) - he must have grown a whole head taller in the intervening time.

The Drummond Family ca. 1769, Johan Joseph Zoffany, oil on canvas

The Drummond Family by Johan Joseph Zoffany RA, (1733–1810, German, active in Britain from 1760), ca. 1769, Oil on canvas, 41 x 63 inches (104.1 x 160 cm), Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection: B1977.14.86

In all, we can see that this well-executed painting is part of a bigger story: a family on the rise. Fathers and sons trying to build their reputation and through business, marriage, art and politics. Breaking from their roots and putting on just the right show for the world.