Johan Zoffany's An Optician with His Attendant (1772) underscores the conventional character of the depiction of a tradesman and, by extension, trade generally in eighteenth-century Britain. Despite the striking visual naturalism of this painting, it resists classification as a straightforward portrait. The sitter has been identified alternately as Peter Dollond and John Cuff, both important opticians. Each proposal, however, entails complications. This article considers the ways in which this Royal Collection painting misrepresents the working lives of both men. The picture provides insight -- not into the life of an individual -- but into the problem of how trades could be represented.
Hanson, Craig A.
"How to Portray a Trade? Identity and Interpretation in Johan Zoffany's Optician with His Attendant,"
2, Article 9.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/ecf/vol23/iss2/9
Craig Ashley Hanson teaches art history at Calvin College. He is the author of The English Virtuoso: Art, Medicine, and Antiquarianism in the Age of Empiricism (2009). He edits Enfilade, an online newsletter, updated daily, for HECAA (Historians of Eighteenth-Century Art & Architecture).