"Sir Francis Bourgeois" (1753-1811)
by Samuel William Reynolds (1773-1835)
after James Northcote, R.A. (1746-1831)
Mezzotint on laid paper
Published by John Manson (fl.1791-1800)
39.4 cm x 29.6 cm paper size
An attractive mezzotint portrait of Sir Francis Bourgeois R.A., the founder of Dulwich Picture Gallery. Lettered beneath the image with the title and "J. Northcote pinx.t // London, Publish'd Feb.y 1st. 1796, by J. Manson, No. 6 Pall Mall. // Reynolds sculp." A fine impression with very broad margins.
Peter Francis Lewis Bourgeois was born in London, the son of an émigré Swiss watchmaker. From an early age he was raised by the London-based French writer and art dealer Nöel Desenfans (1741-1807). He ultimately trained as an artist under Philip de Loutherbourg the 1780's and was elected an R.A. in 1793 and appointed landscape painter to George III in 1794.
Bourgeois and Desenfans also worked together in an art dealing partnership with the pictures displayed around their house. Many of the works they assembled were intended for acquisition by King Stanislaus II Augustus of Poland. Bourgeois was elected a member of the Polish order of merit for which George III allowed him to use the title "Sir" in Britain. However King Stanislaus was forced to abdicate before taking possession of the collection of paintings which had been amassed for him. Desenfans died in 1807, leaving all the pictures to Bourgeois. It had become Desenfans' wish that the collection should remain in the U.K. and be made freely available to the public. At Bourgeois' death the collection, along with and an endowment of £10,000 to build a suitable gallery to contain it, was bequeathed to Dulwich College.
Bourgeois' mortal remains are entombed, along with those of Nöel Desenfans and his wife, in a Mausoleum at Dulwich Picture Gallery, designed by Sir John Soane.
Scarce (the British Museum only acquired a copy in 2010). See National Portrait Gallery [NPG D765]; British Museum [2010,7081.5691]
The print is one of only a few images known to have been published by the bookseller John Manson (fl.1791-1800).
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