M. Rouquet’s book is a rare duodecimo of some two hundred pages, bound in sheep, which, in the copy before us, has reached that particular stage of disintegration when the scarfskin, without much persuasion, peels away in long strips. Its title is– L’Etat des Arts, en Angleterre. Par M. Rouquet, de l’Academie Royale de Peinture & de Sculpture; and it is ” imprime a Paris ” though it was to be obtained from John Nourse, ” Libraire dans le Strand, proche Temple-barr”–a well-known importer of foreign books, and one of Henry Fielding’s publishers. The date is 1755, being the twenty-eighth year of the reign of His Majesty King George the Second–a reign not generally regarded as favourable to art of any kind. In what month of 1755 the little volume was first put forth does not appear; but it must have been before October, when Nourse issued an English version. There is a dedication, in the approved French fashion, to the Marquis de Marigny, ” Directeur & Ordonnateur General de ses Batimens, Jardins, Arts, Academies & Manufactures ” to Lewis the Fifteenth, above which is a delicate headpiece by M. Charles-Nicolas Cochin (the greatest of the family), where a couple of that artist’s well-nourished amorini, insecurely attached to festoons, distribute palms and laurels in vacuity under a coroneted oval displaying fishes. For Monsieur Abel-Francois Poisson, Marquis de Marigny et de Menars, was the younger brother of Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, the celebrated Marquise de Pompadour. Cochin’s etching is dated “1754”; and the “Approbation” at the end of the volume bears his signature in his capacity of Censeur.
Of the “M. Rouquet” of the title-page biography tells us little; but it may be well, before speaking of his book, to bring that little together. He was a Swiss Protestant of French extraction, born at Geneva in 1702. His Christian names were Jean-Andre; and he had come to England from his native land towards the close of the reign of George the First. Many of his restless compatriots also sought these favoured shores. Labelye, who rose from a barber’s shop to be the architect of London Bridge; Liotard, once regarded as a rival of Reynolds; Michael Moser, eventually Keeper of the Royal Academy, had all migrated from the “stormy mansions” where, in the words of Goldsmith’s philosophic Wanderer–
Winter ling’ring chills the lap of May.
Like Moser, Rouquet was a chaser and an enameller. He lodged on the south side of Leicester Fields, in a house afterwards the residence of another Switzer of the same craft, that miserable Theodore Gardelle, who in 1761 murdered his landlady, Mrs. King. Of Rouquet’s activities as an artist in England there are scant particulars. The ordinary authorities affirm that he imitated and rivalled the popular miniaturist and enameller, Christian Zincke, who retired from practice in 1746; and he is loosely described as “the companion of Hogarth, Garrick, Foote, and the wits of the day.” Of his relations with Foote and Garrick there is scant record; but with Hogarth, his near neighbour in the Fields, he was certainly well acquainted, since in 1746 he prepared explanations in French for a number of Hogarth’s prints. These took the form of letters to a friend at Paris, and are supposed to have been, if not actually inspired, at least approved by the painter. They usually accompanied all the sets of Hogarth’s engravings which went abroad; and, according to George Steevens, it was Hogarth’s intention ultimately to have them translated and enlarged. Rouquet followed these a little later by a separate description of “The March to Finchley,” designed specially for the edification of Marshal Foucquet de Belle-Isle, who, when the former letters had been written, was a prisoner of war at Windsor. In a brief introduction to this last, the author, hitherto unnamed, is spoken of as ” Mr. Rouquet, connu par ses Outrages d’Email.”