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Sir Peter Francis Bourgeois

Peter Francis Bourgeois (1753-1811) was a painter and collector active in London, and one of the three founders of Dulwich Picture Gallery. He was born in England to a Swiss father, the watchmaker Isaac Bourgeois (1726-93) and an English mother. In 1768, when Bourgeois was fifteen, his mother died, and his father left him under the care of Noel Desenfans (1744–1807). Desenfans was a writer who emigrated from France to London in 1769. Under Desenfans’ protection, Bourgeois continued his arts education and was introduced to the world of art collecting and dealing.  

In 1790, Bourgeois and Desenfans were commissioned to form a collection of pictures for Stanislas II Augustus Poniatowski (1732-1798), King of Poland. After the king was forced to abdicate in 1795, the pair of collectors strove to find a home for their vast collection of art. After many attempts, the collection remained unsold but Bourgeois and Desenfans shared the wish that their collection should be exhibited publicly. When he died in 1811, Bourgeois left the collection to Dulwich College with a sum of £2,000 to build a public gallery. Desenfans’ widow and business partner, Margaret (1731-1813), supervised the building project and donated £4,000 of her own money for the completion of the gallery. Dulwich Picture Gallery opened to the public in 1817 and Margaret, her husband, and Bourgeois are buried in the Gallery’s mausoleum as founders.  

Currently on display

James Northcote
Gallery 3
76.2 x 63.5 cm
Oil on canvas
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number
Adopted by The Worshipful Company of Carmen