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Johan Joseph Zoffany, 1733–1810
The Gore Family with George, third Earl Cowper
Former Title(s):

The Gore Family with George, 3rd Earl Cowper [1998, This Other Eden: Paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, exhibition catalogue]

George, 3rd Earl Cowper, with the Family of Charles Gore

The Cowper and Gore Families

George Nassau Cowper, 3rd Earl Cowper and Family (1738-1826)
ca. 1775
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
31 x 38 1/2 inches (78.7 x 97.8 cm), Frame: 37 3/4 × 45 1/2 × 3 inches (95.9 × 115.6 × 7.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
allegory | book | cello | conversation piece | costume | curtain | daughters | earl | family | father | group portrait | husband | interior | marriage | men | mother | music | painting (visual work) | pen | portrait | square piano | wedding | wife | women | writing (processes)
Associated People:
Gore, Hannah Anne (ca. 1758–1826)
Gore, Emilie
Cowper, George Nassau Clavering, third Earl Cowper (1738–1789), art collector and patron
Gore, Elizabeth
Gore, Charles
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

This remarkable conversation piece was commissioned by George, third Earl Cowper, to celebrate his recent engagement to Hannah Anne Gore. In 1774, Charles Gore, represented playing the cello, took his wife and three daughters to Florence, where the sixteen-year-old Hannah met Lord Cowper, an English expatriate living in Italy. The fictive history painting in the background shows Hercules, emblematic of virtue, driving Envy from the Temple of Hymen. The theme of this painting was perhaps an oblique reference to the necessary ending of Lord Cowper’s liaisons with Florentine women, and the theme of music-making further implies the marital harmony that awaits the couple. The background landscape provides a view of the Tuscan hills, suggesting that the setting is Lord Cowper’s villa at Fiesole, just outside Florence.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

This portrait was probably commissioned in 1775 by Charles Gore (who is playing the cello) to mark the wedding of his youngest daughter, Hannah Anne Gore (ca. 1758-1826), to his crony, the wealthy art collector, patron, and member of Parliament George Nassau Clavering Cowper, 3rd Earl Cowper (1738-1789). (Hannah Gore and Lord Cowper are both standing). The father of the bride is accompanied on the square piano by his middle daughter, Emilie, while Mrs. Gore and Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, sit on the right. The history painting all'antica in the background on the left may be a slightly indelicate allusion to the abandonment by Lord Cowper of a well-publicized love affair with the Marchesa Corsi, a Florentine noblewoman. It shows the god Hercules ejecting the hideous, naked figure of Calumny from an allegorical wedding ceremony, and giving her a good thrashing with his club.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005

Small, Informal family portraits, set in intimate or private surroundings and known as "conversation pieces," became fashionable in England in the 1720s and remained so until late in the 18th century. This conversation piece shows the importance of music to the Gore family. Charles Gore is playing the cello to the accompaniment of his daughter Emily on the square piano. Standing in the middle is George, the 3rd Earl Cowper, to whom the Gore's youngest daughter Hannah Anne (standing in front of the picture which hangs on the wall) married in 1775.

Gallery label for Pleasures and Pastime (Yale Center for British Art, 1990-02-21 - 1990-04-29)
In this lavish portrait George, 3rd Earl Cowper (1738- 1783) at the center of the composition leans nonchalantly on the back of a chair and looks adoringly at his future wife, Hannah Anne Gore, at the left of the canvas. Surrounding the couple is the bride's family: her father Charles Gore plays the cello-his colored drawings of ships nearby (he was an amateur marine painter)-while her elder sister Emilie accompanies him on the square piano; her mother Mary Gore, book in hand, and her eldest sister Elizabeth are seated at the right. Painted in the months preceding the wedding, on June 2, 1775, the painting most likely was commissioned by Charles Gore to honor his daughter's marriage. Ostensibly set in an open gallery in Cowper's villa giving onto the picturesque slopes of Fiesole in Italy, the intimate family portrait describes the members of the Gore family as well as their affection for each other. As a group they are at ease with each other in the home of their soon-to-be son-in-law. The bridal couple stands, coyly anticipating their union: Cowper looks at his betrothed from afar while she poses demurely, not participating in the convivial musical moment. Framing her head, an allegorical painting of a marriage à l'antique in a Temple of Hymen cleverly suggests her preoccupation with her imminent marriage; and it is possible that the specific allegory-in which Hercules is clubbing the unmasked Calumny-hints at the quashing of a former passion between the bridegroom, already in his late thirties, and an unsuitable Florentine lady. Opulent in its description of each detail of the dresses, musical instruments, and furniture, this conversation piece is more than a mere depiction of an intimate family afternoon. Zoffany has created a tribute not only to the young couple, her family, and her bridegroom, but also to their tastes and lifestyle. Charles and Mary Gore were married in 1751, and her dowry, coupled with Gore's own inheritance, enabled them to live a life of leisure. Mrs. Gore's poor health led the family to seek mild climates. In 1773 they moved to Florence, and there, through their introductions to the Grand Ducal Court and the highest ranks of British society, they met George Nassau, 3rd Earl Cowper, a well-known member of that city's British expatriate society. Cowper had first visited Florence in 1759 and thereafter played a large role in the Florentine artistic community. In particular, he was a great patron of contemporary British artists, musicians, and literati, whom he frequently championed to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo; indeed, this painting reflects his love for both music and art. During his courtship of and engagement to Hannah Gore, Cowper feted his fiancée with concerts, and in late 1774 he commissioned Zoffany to paint her portrait in the guise of a peasant-girl from Savoy.

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 64, no. 20, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

Johan Zoffany RA (Royal Academy of Arts, 2012-03-10 - 2012-06-10) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Johan Zoffany RA (Yale Center for British Art, 2011-10-27 - 2012-02-12) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Art and Music in Britain: Four Encounters, 1730-1900 (Yale Center for British Art, 2006-10-05 - 2006-12-31) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of South Australia, 1998-09-16 - 1998-11-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Queensland Art Gallery, 1998-07-15 - 1998-09-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1998-05-01 - 1998-07-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Grand Tour - The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century (Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, 1997-02-05 - 1997-04-07) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Grand Tour - The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century (Tate Britain, 1996-10-10 - 1997-01-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Pleasures and Pastimes (Yale Center for British Art, 1990-02-21 - 1990-04-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Conversation Piece - Arthur Devis & His Contemporaries (Yale Center for British Art, 1980-10-01 - 1980-11-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977-1986, Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1986, pp. 9, 20, no. 58, N590.2 A7 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Sir Geoffrey Agnew, Yale's 1700 Mellon Pictures, The Times (London), , April 28, 1977, p. 9, Times Digital Archive [ORBIS]

Jeremy Aynsley, Imagined interiors, representing the domestic interior since the Renaissance , V&A Publications, London New York, 2006, fig. 5.13, NK1710 I43 2006 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Aram Bakshian, Johan Zoffany, 1733-1810, History Today, vol. 229, no. 7, July 1979, p. 425, D1 H787 (SML) Also available Online (Orbis) [ORBIS]

Timothy J. Barringer, Art & music in Britain : four encounters, 1730-1900, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2006, cover and back inside cover, V 1699 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Timothy J. Barringer, Art & music in Britain, four encounters, 1730-1900 (exhibition and label text) , New Haven, 2006, [p. 43], V 1699:1 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Mary Louisa Boyle, Biographical catalogue of the portraits at Panshanger the seat of Earl Cowper, K.G., E. Stock, London, 1885, pp. 308-09, N7622.2 G7 C68 B68 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Commune di Milano (Palazzo Reale), Pittura inglese 1660-1840, due secoli di cultura, storia e costume in Inghilterra : milano, Palazzo reale, 29 gennaio-16 marzo 1975 , Electra, Milano, 1975, p. 102, cat. no. 62, ND466 P53 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 268-269, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ellen G. D'Oench, The Conversation Piece: Arthur Devis & his contemporaries, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1980, pp. 26, 74-75, cat. no. 61, fig. 18, NJ18 D5151 D64 OVERSIZE [ORBIS]

Elisabeth Fairman, Pleasures and pastimes, exhibition labels , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 1990, pp. 6-7, no. 8, DA485 F251 1990 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Elisabeth Fairman, Pleasures and pastimes, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 1990, p. 8, no. 8, DA485 F25 1990 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Peter D. Fraser, Charles Gore and the Willem Van de Veldes, Master Drawings, vol. 15, Master Drawings Association, Inc., New York, NY, Winter 1977, p. 377, NC1 M37 15 [ORBIS]

Charles John Holmes, Costume in Fact and in Pictures, Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. 65,no. 376, July 1934, p. 23, 25, pl. A, N1 B87 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) Also available online at JSTOR [YCBA]

Francis Howard, An illustrated catalogue of the second National Loan Exhibition,1913-1914, Woman and child in art Proceeds devoted to the purchase of works by contemporary British artists for the nation Compiled by Francis Howard, with preface by Robert Ross , W. Heinemann, London, W. Heinemann, 1914, 1914, p. 125, no. 80, N5055 L63 1914 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Richard Payne Knight, Expedition into Sicily, British Museum Publications, London, 1986, pp. 5. 14, DG863 K55 1986 + [LSF] [ORBIS]

Victoria Manners, John Zoffany, R.A. His Life and Works. 1735-1810, , John Lane, London, 1920, pp. 51-53,191-92, NJ18.Z68 +M3 1920 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden : Paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 64, no. 20, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Sir Oliver Millar, Zoffany and his Tribuna, Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art, London, 1967, p. 24, pl. 25, NJ18 Z68 M56 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Brenda Neece, The Cello in Britain, A Technical and Social History , The Galpin Society Journal, vol. 56, Galpin Society, June 2003, pp. 103-104, fig. 2.36, Available online at JSTOR Article retrieved from JSTOR. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30044410 [ORBIS]

Oxford University Press, Front Matter and Editorial, Early Music, vol. 12, November 1984, front cover and p. 436, Available online at JSTOR Front cover - http://www.jstor.org/stable/3137971 Editorial - http://www.jstor.org/stable/3137972 [ORBIS]

Paintings at Firle Place, Home of Viscount and Viscountess Gage , Connoisseur, vol. 137, June, 1956, p. 81, J10 C762 + OVERSIZE (SML) YCBA lacks this volume; cite verified in EBSCO [ORBIS]

Ronald Paulson, Emblem and expression, meaning in English art of the eighteenth century , Thames and Hudson, London, 1975, pp. 141, 142, fig. 79, NX543 P38 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Marcia R. Pointon, Brilliant effects, a cultural history of gem stones and jewellery , Yale University Press, New Haven, 2009, pp. 32, 33-34, figs. 35-38, GT2250 P65 2009 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Martin Postle, Johan Zoffany, RA : Society Observed, , Yale University Press, New Haven, 2011, pp. 120, 167, 169, 234-35, cat. no. 56, NJ18 Z68 + A12 2011 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Mario Praz, Conversation Pieces : A Survey of the Informal Group Portrait in Europe and America, , Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, University Park, 1971, pp. 184, 338, ND1304 +P713 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Kate Retford, The art of domestic life, family portraiture in eighteenth-century England , Yale University Press, New Haven, London, 2006, pp. 187-89, fig. 147, ND1313.4 .R48 2006 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Kate Retford, The Conversation Piece Making Modern Art in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2017, p. 226, fig. 172, ND1314.4 .R48 2017 (LC) Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Duncan Robinson, Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977 - 1986, , Burlington Magazine, vol. 128, October 1986, pp. 9, 20, no. 58, N1 B87 128:3 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Samuel Blunt and His Wife; Charles Towney and His Friends; Mr. and Mrs. Garrick, Entertaining Dr. Johnson to Tea; John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke; George, Third Earl Cowper and the Gore Family, Creative Art, vol. 6, May 1930, pp. 311, 313,, J10 + C86 (HAAS) [ORBIS]

Philip Sassoon, Loan exhibition of English conversation pieces in aid of the Royal Northern Hospital ... March 4th to 30th (inclusive) 1930, Royal Northern Hospital, [s.l., 1930, , no. 26, ND1304 S37 1930 (HAAS) [ORBIS]

Sacheverell Sitwell, Conversation pieces, a survey of English domestic portraits and their painters , B.T. Batsford, London, 1936, pp. 29,30,31, 94, no. 31, fig. 31, ND1314 S5 1936 (YCBA) [YCBA]

South Kensington Museum, Catalogue of the second special exhibition of national portraits commencing with the reign of William and Mary and ending with the year MDCCC, on loan to the South Kensington museum. May 1, 1867., London, 1867, p. 153, no. 703, N7598 S6 1867 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Penelope Treadwell, Johan Zoffany : Artist and Adventurer, , Paul Holberton Publishing, London, 2009, pp. 242-44, NJ18 Z68 T74 2009 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ellis Waterhouse, Dictionary of British 18th Century Painters in Oils and Crayons, Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1981, p. 432, ND466 +W38 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Mary Webster, Johan Zoffany, 1733-1810, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1976, pp. 62-63, no. 79, NJ18 Z68 W43 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Mary Webster, Johan Zoffany, 1733-1810, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2011, pp.5,302,308-..., figs. 227 and232, NJ18 Z68 W43 2011 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Whitechapel Art Gallery, Muhammadan Art and Life in Turkey, Persia, Egypt, Morocco and India, London, 1908, no. 157, Not Available at Yale [ORBIS]

George Charles Williamson, English conversation pictures of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, B.T. Batsford, London, 1931, pp. 17-18, pl. L, ND1304 E5 1931 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Wilmerding, Essays in honor of Paul Mellon, collector and benefactor, Essays , National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC & Hanover, NH, 1986, pp. 5-6, fig. 4, N7442.2 M455 1986 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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