The artist, born near Frankfurt and trained in Rome, moved to England in 1760. Patronized by George III and Queen Charlotte, in 1768 he was nominated by the king to the newly established Royal Academy. This small, precisely painted whole length of a man in clerical dress is the first work by Zoffany to enter the Museum's collection.
Philip Cocks was a child of John Cocks of Castleditch and Mary Cocks, who had married in 1724. In 1765 John inherited extensive family estates at Eastnor in Herefordshire. The couple had thirteen children: ten sons, of whom Philip was the sixth, and three daughters. Philip was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, and became rector of Acton in 1758 and later prebendary (honorary canon) of Lincoln Cathedral. Although the posthumous inscription on the reverse of the canvas records his birth date as 1736, he was apparently baptized on February 25, 1735, and died unmarried on September 17, 1797. The chair in Philip’s portrait, Zoffany’s sitters’ chair, appears in various works of the later 1760s. It would be reasonable to suppose that Philip was in his early thirties when he was painted.
The present work is one of a group of four Cocks family portraits that were still together in 1920 in the collection of Joseph Heriz-Smith, a descendant. The current location of the other three works is unknown. There was another upright single-figure portrait of the same size as the Museum's painting and two horizontal double portraits also with identical dimensions. The other single-figure portrait has been described as showing Joseph Cocks in blue velvet, reading a book. The two double portraits represent the Reverend John and James Cocks in an interior and Thomas Somers and Richard Cocks in a landscape. The latter two portraits, although exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1891 as the work of Zoffany, are in fact by John Hamilton Mortimer. The sitters were six of the eight surviving sons of John of Castleditch (died 1771), who may have commissioned all four paintings.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
the sitter, Rev. Philip Cocks (until d. 1797); his niece, Margaret Cocks, later Mrs. Joseph Smith, Shortgrove, Essex (1797–d. 1829); by descent to Joseph Heriz-Smith, Slade Park, Bideford, Devon (by 1920–29; sale, Harcombe, Devon, September or December 10, 1929); [Leger, London and New York, 1929–at least 1930]; [Captain Harold Paikin, New York, until 1952; posthumous sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, January 23, 1952, no. 78, for $175]; [Colnaghi, London, until 1953]; Ray Livingston Murphy, New York (d. 1953; his estate, 1953–85; sale, Christie's, London, November 22, 1985, no. 81, to Agnew); [Agnew, London, 1985–89; sold to Grunwald]; Mrs. Henry A. (Louise) Grunwald, New York (1989–2006; sale, Sotheby's, London, July 14, 1999, no. 107, withdrawn; sale, Christie's, London, June 8, 2006, no. 53, withdrawn)
London. Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd. "British Painting of Three Centuries," June 2–July 24, 1987, no. 5.
London. Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. "Agnew's Millennium Exhibition," June 8–July 21, 2000, no. 32.
Victoria Manners and G[eorge]. C. Williamson. John Zoffany, R.A., His Life and Works, 1735–1810. London, 1920, p. 204, as in the Heriz-Smith collection at Slade, with three other paintings representing members of the Cocks family.
Katharine B. Baetjer in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2006–2007." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Fall 2007), p. 31, ill. (color).
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 119–21, no. 53, ill. (color).