James Northcote, an assistant in Reynolds’s studio between 1771 and 1776, settled in London in 1781 after a long trip to Italy, and became well-known for his portraits and history paintings. This portrait of one of Dulwich Picture Gallery’s founders was recorded in Northcote’s Sitters Book as having been painted in 1796.


  • Title: Noel Joseph Desenfans
  • Creator Lifespan: 1746 - 1831
  • Date: 1796
  • Physical Dimensions: w609 x h733 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Notes: Engraving by S. Freeman, c. 1809 as frontispiece to the Monthly Mirror, December 1809, and for Memoir of… Desenfans, 1810.
  • Work Nationality: British
  • Support: Canvas
  • Provenance: London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811.
  • Further Information: Noel Desenfans (1744-1807) was born in Douai and educated at the universities of Douai and Paris. He came to London in 1769 as a language teacher and married Margaret Morris, the aunt of two of his pupils, in 1776 (see After Reynolds DPG627). Active as a picture dealer from the 1770s, in 1790-5 he was engaged in assembling a collection of old master paintings for the King of Poland. However, because of the King's enforced abdication in 1795, this was never delivered. After failing to persuade the Government to establish a British National Gallery, and finding himself unable to dispose of his collection on satisfactory terms, Desenfans bequeathed the pictures to his friend Sir Francis Bourgeois, who in turn bequeathed them to Dulwich College. (See also Unknown DPG503.) DPG28 is listed by Northcote among portraits painted in 1796 and is recorded in his account book for that year.
  • Artist: Northcote, James
  • Acquisition Method: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis (Bequest, 1811)

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