National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Lavie Children Johann Zoffany (artist)
British, 1733 - 1810
The Lavie Children, c. 1770
oil on canvas
overall: 102.5 x 127.6 cm (40 3/8 x 50 1/4 in.) framed: 125.7 x 151.1 x 7.6 cm (49 1/2 x 59 1/2 x 3 in.)
Paul Mellon Collection
1983.1.48
Not on View
From the Tour: British Conversation Pieces and Portraits of the 1700s
Object 6 of 6

When Johann Zoffany arrived in London in 1760, the twenty-seven-year-old painter already had worked in Rome and his native Germany. Under the patronage of the celebrated actor David Garrick, Zoffany came to the attention of the royal family. Zoffany’s fame rested on lively depictions of actors performing on stage and of connoisseurs examining art galleries. Revitalizing the conversation-piece format developed by William Hogarth in the 1720s, Zoffany was nominated to the Royal Academy of Art in 1769, the year it opened. After King George III rejected one of Zoffany’s court commissions because it included portraits of some commoners, the artist found it expedient to spend much of the 1770s in Florence, Italy, and the 1780s in Calcutta, India.

The Lavie Children represents all seven siblings in an English family of French Protestant ancestry. Their father, Germain Lavie, was a solicitor in Putney, a ward in southwest London. Seven-year-old Germain, who would become a lawyer like his father, balances atop a seesaw, waving his hat in triumph. His active pose accentuates Zoffany’s carefully conceived design of complex curves that interweave among the children. Zoffany added interest to his conversation pieces by such animated postures and gestures as Thomas anchoring the seesaw, Maria steadying baby Emilia, Sarah petting a playful spaniel, and Frances reaching for John’s catch of fish.

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