Johan Zoffany, A Beggar's Family

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
Doddington Hall
A Beggar's Family
by 1797
Ground Floor, Bottom Of Stairs & Lower Staircase To First Floor
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 74 cm, Overall width: 90 cm
Johan Zoffany (1733-1810)
Catalogue Number


This hitherto unidentified picture was exhibited by Zoffany at the Royal Academy in 1797 with the title A Beggar’s Family. Although the composition differs in a number of ways, it recalls Zoffany’s earlier genre painting, Beggars on the Road to Stanmore, of c.1769–70, which was probably the work exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1771 also as A Beggar’s Family. By the mid-1790s Zoffany was living west of London, at Strand-on-the-Green. Although he was in poor health, and the quality of his art was showing signs of deterioration, Zoffany continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy until 1800, when he showed four religious subjects.

When it was exhibited in 1797 the critic John Williams, who wrote under the pseudonym Anthony Pasquin, stated that A Beggar’s Family was ‘touched with all the spirit of the master, a very excellent and deserving production’.1 However, the picture failed to sell, and remained with Zoffany until his death. At Zoffany’s posthumous sale in May 1811, it was identified as A Group of Mendicants, Well Known Characters, and was purchased for £6 16s.2 The identity of the buyer is unknown. As the painting remained in Zoffany’s possession until his death, it is possible that it was purchased at the sale or subsequently by Edward Delaval. Although we cannot be sure, Edward Delaval may have known Zoffany since the early 1760s. At that time Zoffany was employed as a drapery painter by Benjamin Wilson, who was then closely associated with the Delavals’ private theatre in London. In the late nineteenth century the present painting was recorded as Zoffany by Cole, at which time it was hanging over the door in the Dining Room (now the Brown Parlour). It was subsequently attributed erroneously to Benjamin Vandergucht (1753–1794).

by Martin Postle


R.E.G. Cole, History of Doddington, otherwise Doddington-Pigot, in the County of Lincoln, and its successive owners, with pedigrees, Lincoln : James Williamson, 1897, p. 219

Mary Webster, Johan Zoffany, R.A., New Haven and London : Yale University Press, 2011, pp. 589, 645


  1. A. Pasquin, A Key to the Exhibition, London, 1797, no. 152.

  2. A Catalogue of a most Curious and Unique Assemblage of the Valuable Property, of that distinguished artist Johan Zoffany Esq, Decd. Removed from his late Residence at Strand on the Green. Sold by Robins, Piazza, Covent Garden. First Day’s Sale, Thursday, the 9th of May, 1811, lot 87.


Related catalogue items from Doddington Hall

  • Castle Howard Doddington Hall

    Unknown Boy; ? Member of the Delaval family

    Unknown Artist, c.1600–20

  • Castle Howard Doddington Hall

    Storming of Algiers

    Unknown Artist

  • Castle Howard Doddington Hall

    ? A Member of the Tailor Family

    circle of John Baptist Medina, c.1700