Laguerre, Louis (DNB00)


LAGUERRE, LOUIS (1663–1721), painter, born at Paris in 1663, was son of a Spaniard, a native of Catalonia, who entered the service of Louis XIV, and was appointed ‘maître de la ménagerie’ to the king. The father was much favoured by the king, who stood sponsor to his son. Louis was educated at the Jesuits' College, Paris, but having shown an early inclination for drawing, was sent by his parents to study in the school of the French Academy. Subsequently he worked for a time under Charles le Brun. At the Academy he obtained in 1682 the third prize for a painting of ‘Cain building the Town of Enoch,’ and in 1683 the third prize for a sculpture of ‘Tubal Cain.’ In the latter year he came to England with an architectural painter, called Ricard; they were employed as assistants by Verrio, who was then engaged on his paintings at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. Laguerre showed so much skill that he quickly found employment among the nobility in painting halls, staircases, or ceilings. He did much work at Burleigh House, Stamford; at Petworth House, Sussex, where he painted an allegorical history of Elizabeth, countess of Somerset; at Blenheim Palace, where he painted on the ceiling the Duke of Marlborough in triumph; at Berkeley or Devonshire House in Piccadilly (destroyed by fire); at the Earl of Radnor's, in St. James's Square; at Buckingham House (now rebuilt as Buckingham Palace); at Chatsworth, and elsewhere. At Marlborough House, in Pall Mall, he painted a series of Marlborough's victories, which have been engraved. He received a commission to paint the cupola of St. Paul's Cathedral, and had actually begun the designs, when the commission was withdrawn, and eventually the work was entrusted to Sir James Thornhill [q. v.] Laguerre was much esteemed by William III, who gave him apartments at Hampton Court. Here he painted in chiaroscuro ‘The Labours of Hercules’ in the fountain court, and was employed to ‘restore’ the sadly damaged tempera-paintings by Andrea Mantegna of ‘The Triumph of Cæsar.’ He was one of the directors of the Academy of Painting in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and might have become governor on the resignation of Sir Godfrey Kneller had he pushed his candidature more resolutely. Laguerre also painted small pictures, portraits (one of William, earl Cadogan, was engraved in mezzotint by J. Simon), and designs for engraving or tapestry. His figure-drawing was rated very highly, and was much imitated. Laguerre is also credited with an etching of ‘The Judgment of Midas,’ and for a club of virtuosi Laguerre painted, at the tavern in Drury Lane where they met, a Bacchanalian procession.

His early education was of great use to him in his allegorical and mythological compositions. Pope's depreciatory line,

Where sprawl the Saints of Verrio and Laguerre,

has caused posterity to treat their works with unmerited contempt. He was of an indolent and careless disposition, or he might have amassed a large fortune.

Laguerre's first wife was daughter of Jean Tijou, a worker in iron, who executed some of the ironwork at Hampton Court. For him he designed a frontispiece to a book of designs for ironwork, engraved by Paul Van Somer, and published by Tijou in 1693. After his first wife's death he married again. Late in life he became dropsical, and fell into general ill-health from neglect of medical advice. On Thursday, 20 April 1721, he went with his wife and a party of friends to Lincoln's Inn playhouse to see the ‘Island Princess,’ in which his son John was going to sing. Before the performance commenced he was stricken with apoplexy, and died in the theatre. He was buried in St. Martin's-in-the-Fields.

Laguerre, John (d. 1748), painter and actor, son of the above, was born in London. He was educated by his father as a painter, and showed some skill, but was of too indolent and careless a nature to succeed in that art. Instead he went on the stage, having considerable vocal powers, and achieved some success. He also painted scenery for the theatre. He is best known by a series of drawings, representing the history of ‘Hob in the Well,’ which were engraved by Claude Dubosc, and were very popular. A plate called ‘The Theatrical Revolt’ was etched by him, representing a humorous occurrence in his stage life. He painted a portrait of Mary Tofts [q. v.] the impostor, which was engraved in mezzotint by John Faber the younger. He died in poor circumstances in March 1748.

[Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Wornum; Vertue's MSS. (Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 23068–75); Dodd's manuscript Hist. of English Engravers (Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 33402); Dussieux's Les Artistes Français à l'Etranger; Abecedario de P. J. Mariette; Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits.]

L. C.