Nathaniel Hone the Elder, Irish, 1718-1784
Title: The Conjuror
Date: 1775
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
145 x 173 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1966 (Shaw Fund)
Object Number: NGI.1790
DescriptionOriginally entitled The Pictorial Conjuror Displaying the Whole Art of Optical Deception, this picture was an audacious and complex attack on Joshua Reynolds, President of the Royal Academy and one of the most revered artistic figures of his generation. Hone considered Reynolds’s inclination to rely on the work of Old Masters in the composition of his own works as little more than plagiarism.
In the picture, an old magician, the sitter for which was one of Reynolds’s favourite models, conjures a painting from a series of dog-eared Old Master prints, which, delivered by a winged demon, cascade into the room from above. In his hand is a print after Raphael’s Virgin with a Diadem, the subject of which, the revelation of truth, is a pointed reference to Reynolds’s practice. The Conjuror was excluded from the Royal Academy annual exhibition on the erroneous grounds that certain other details were intended to offend the academician Angelica Kauffman. Having protested his innocence in vain, Hone installed the painting that same year as the centrepiece of a show in London, the first solo exhibition of its kind.

March 2016
ProvenanceHutchins, London, 2-3 March 1785, Artist's Posthumous Studio sale; Christie's, 1 May 1790, The Collection of a 'French Nobleman' sale, lot 48; bought by Edward Knight of Wolverly; by descent to John Knight; Phillips, 23 March 1819, John Knight sale, lot 36 (not sold); Phillips, 17 March 1821, lot 8, bought in; by descent to Major Eric A. Knight; Christie's, 1 December 1944, Major Eric A. Knight sale, lot 39; bought by John Maher, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford; Colnaghi by 1952; purchased, Colnaghi, 1966
Exhibition HistoryRoyal Academy, London, 1775 (withdrawn)

The Exhibition of Pictures by Nathaniel Hone, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1775

The First Hundred Years of the Royal Academy, 1769-1868, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1951-1952

Exhibition of Paintings by Angelica Kauffmann, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, May - September 1955

Bicentenary Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1968-1969

Angelika Kauffmann und ihre Zeitgenossen, Vorarlberger Landesmuseum, Bregenz, 23 July - 13 October 1968; Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna, 8 November 1968 - 1 February 1969

Reynolds, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1986

Retrospective Angelika Kauffmann, Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf; Haus der Kunst, Munich, 1998-1999
Label TextThis picture was an audacious attack on Joshua Reynolds, one of the most revered artistic figures of his generation. Hone regarded Reynolds’s reliance on the art of Old Masters in his own practice as mere plagiarism. In the picture, a magician conjures a painting from Old Master prints delivered by a winged demon. The painting was excluded from the Royal Academy annual exhibition on the erroneous grounds that other details were intended to offend the academician Angelica Kauffman. In response, Hone installed the painting in a rival show, the first solo-exhibition of its kind in London.