The Neighbor from Hell: André Rouquet’s Eviction from the Louvre

David Maskill

 

Of the three conditions that could lead to the liberation of a Louvre lodgingdeath, bankruptcy and madnessthe third was the least common, if the most poignant. The enamel painter André Rouquet was forced to leave his lodging in August 1758 when he was taken under guard to the asylum of the Brothers of Charity at Charenton. His removal was the result of an inquiry into his mental state on account of his manic behavior. His neighborsfellow artistswho testified that Rouquet’s actions had been so dangerous as to threaten the safety and security of their own lodgings, orchestrated his removal. In a fascinating series of depositions from Rouquet’s neighbors, we get a glimpse of the collegial nature of the artists’ lodgings in the Louvre and the lengths to which the system protected the interests of the incumbents, that is, up until a line was crossed. When that occurred, the collective efforts of fellow occupants were mobilized to safeguard the privileged system of logements.

The Genevan-born enamellist André Rouquet (1701-1758) is better known to historians of English art for his published works on the state of the arts in England and for his championing of Hogarth (whose portrait he painted in the 1740s). He moved to Paris from London in 1753, where he was agréé by the Académie Royale in August of that year and reçu by royal command in February 1754.[1] He was accorded a Louvre lodging in July 1754 on the death of the incumbent and fellow enamellist, Mathieu.[2] His lodging was the tenth of the 27 lodgings that ran half-way along the grand gallery from the point where it connected with the old Louvre as far as the guichet Saint-Nicaise. As this plan of the various levels shows (Fig.1), each apartment was distributed over three floors with a mezzanine or entresol between the second and third levels and a cellar. The plan, which dates to about 1710, reading from bottom to top, shows the cellars, the ground floor, first floor, mezzanine and second floor. A corridor at the first-floor and mezzanine levels linked the lodgings on the riverside, while the main entrance to each lodging was from ground level on the opposite side via the rue des Orties.

Fig. 1. Unknown draughtsman, Logemens des galeries du Louvre et les noms des particuliers qui les occupent, c. 1710. Pen and ink. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. © Bibliothèque nationale de France. Rouquet’s lodging is designated L on the plan.

Fig. 1. Unknown draftsman, Logemens des galeries du Louvre et les noms des particuliers qui les occupent, c. 1710. Pen and ink. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. © Bibliothèque nationale de France. Rouquet’s lodging is designated L on the plan.

In August 1758, an inquest into the mental state of André Rouquet was initiated by the Prévoté de l’Hôtel du Roi which administered the Louvre.[3] Pierre-Charles Davoust, from the Prévoté, went to the Louvre lodging of the Académie’s secretary, Charles-Nicolas Cochin (1715-1790), which was situated at the far end of the series of lodgings next to the guichet Saint-Nicaise. It was in Cochin’s apartment that Davoust heard a series of depositions from Rouquet’s immediate neighbors about his mental state and the increasingly disturbing and dangerous activities they had witnessed over the preceding months. Depositions were taken from Cochin, the Académie director Louis de Silvestre (1675-1760), the painters Jean Restout (1692-1768) and Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779), the silversmith François-Thomas Germain (1726-1791) and the pastellist Maurice-Quentin de La Tour (1704-1788). According to Cochin’s deposition, Rouquet had lost his much beloved wife soon after his arrival in France, causing him great distress. He then suffered an attack of apoplexy but recovered. Next Cochin reported that some four or five months previously, Rouquet had suffered a paralyzing numbness down one side of his body, which caused him great anxiety as he was unable to work. He decided that he would recover in the countryside, and so had rented a house at Chaillot together with an English governess who had lived with Rouquet and his wife for twenty years. It was the governess’ death that appears to have sent Rouquet over the edge.

Returning to his Louvre lodging, Rouquet’s behavior became increasingly alarming to his neighbors, who tried to help by providing a succession of servants to attend to him. Rouquet forced them all to leave and refused the services of several physicians employed to administer to him by his neighbors. Instead, it was reported that he was taking large amounts of drugs, which he bought from a nearby apothecary in the rue du Roule. The apothecary, one Monsieur de la Planche, refused to sell Rouquet any more drugs without his neighbors’ permission. To fund his drug addiction, it was reported that Rouquet was selling off items of furniture and even the gold embroidery from one of his suits for meager sums. All of this indicates not only the degree of Rouquet’s instability but, just as importantly, the level of concern his artist neighbors had for their afflicted colleague, and the lengths they went to in order to help him recover his wits. Furthermore, the apothecary’s refusal to give Rouquet any more drugs without the permission of his neighbors, indicates that the network of surveillance of Rouquet’s condition extended beyond the confines of the Louvre to the surrounding neighborhood.

Fig. 2. Detail of Fig. 1 showing the first floor and mezzanine of Rouquet’s (L) and Silvestre’s apartments (M).

Fig. 2. Detail of Fig. 1 showing the first floor and mezzanine of Rouquet’s (L) and Silvestre’s apartments (M).

According to the depositions made by Louis de Silvestre, Jean Restout, Jean-Siméon Chardin, François-Thomas Germain and Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, Rouquet had almost set fire to his lodging, to the extent that smoke had filled the corridor linking the apartments on the riverside. He was also reported to have thrown bottles, household items and pieces of furniture into the street below. Their concern was such that Cochin ordered his servant Jean Spinga to keep watch over the afflicted resident. In his deposition, Spinga reported that he had witnessed Rouquet breaking his furniture and household plates and burning his clothing and household linen. He was often to be found wandering the streets half-dressed and frequently left the door to the street entrance to his apartment open. In one incident, Spinga reported that Rouquet had tried to bleed himself to relieve his affliction. Spinga went next door to the eighty-three-year-old Louis de Silvestre’s lodging to get some broth. Rouquet took the opportunity of the servant’s temporary absence to bolt the door to the lodging. This was likely a door that opened into the corridor connecting the lodgings on the first floorthe most direct route to Silvestre’s apartment. This can be clearly seen in a detail from the plan of the lodgings (Fig. 2) showing the first floor and mezzanine of both Rouquet’s and Louis de Silvestre’s apartments (labeled L and M respectively). Finding the door locked on his return, Spinga was obliged to climb though the window of the mezzanine to gain access to the apartment, where he found Rouquet upstairs in his bedroom, naked, and trying to stem the flow of blood with a garter. This detail describing the locked door and the consequent need for Spinga to access Rouquet’s apartment via a window on the mezzanine is crucially important to our understanding of the layout of the lodgings and how they were used. While non-residents had to use the main entrance to each apartment on the ground floor via the rue des Orties, residents could interact with one another via the internal connecting corridor at first-floor level. Thus there were two different ways of experiencing these spacesthe one as an individual occupant with the outside world, the other as a co-resident within the collegial world of the galleries of the Louvre.

Following the depositions by Rouquet’s neighbours, Pierre-Charles Davoust from the Prévoté de l’Hôtel du Roi visited the apartment. There, he found Rouquet half dressed. On requiring him to identify himself under oath, Rouquet did so and then promptly disappeared upstairs. Davoust found evidence of Rouquet’s dangerous activities. Household items were burnt, panes of glass in one of the doors were shattered and a pile of tallow blocked an interior door where Rouquet had burned candles. The space was described as badly smoke damaged.

Rouquet’s removal to the care of the Brothers of Charity at Charenton was considered a temporary measure. Care was taken to secure his Louvre lodging and what was left of the household items he had not burned or sold in anticipation of his return at some future date. In the end, Rouquet never returned. He died four months later in December 1758 at the asylum of Charenton. His probate inventory shows that he had occupied only two floors of his Louvre lodging. The valuation of his effects amounted to a paltry 768 livres.[4] Once again, Cochin looked after the deceased’s interests. At the apposing of the seals on Rouquet’s apartment, Cochin declared that he had in his possession the considerable sum of 1200 livres owed to the deceased by Madame la marquise de Pompadour for two enamel portraits and that a further 600 livres was owed to the estate by Madame la duchesse de Mazarin for another enamel portrait. Although no enamel portrait of Pompadour appears to have survived, the other portrait may be the one of her brother now in the Louvre.[5]

Rouquet’s Louvre lodging remained vacant for six months until the portrait painter Louis Tocqué (1696-1772), along with his wife, eleven-year old daughter, footman and cook moved in during the summer of 1759. Tocqué had not long returned from a two-year stay in Russia, Sweden and Denmark. According to the Tocqués’ long-time friend, the engraver Jean-Baptiste Massé (1687-1767), Madame Tocqué had the lodging decorated “magnificently and at a great deal of expense.”[6] Such redecoration would have been necessary after the sorry state in which it had been left by the afflicted Rouquet. No doubt, the arrival of the Tocqués was greeted with considerable relief by their neighbors.

This episode can tell us something of the interconnected lives of the Louvre residents. The internally linked lodgings both allowed and obliged the residents to interact with one another and to have a certain care for each other’s well being. Despite differences in rank and wealth, a high degree of collegiality appears to have come into play among the residents, especially when the smooth running of the logements system was compromised. The depositions from Rouquet’s fellow artists are evidence of their genuine concern for a neighbor whose actions threatened the delicate balance of individual autonomy and collective responsibility which characterized life in the Louvre.

 

David Maskill is Senior Lecturer in Art History at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

 

[1] Anatole de Montaiglon, ed., Procès-verbaux de l’Académie Royale de peinture et de sculpture 1648-1793 (Paris: Charavay Frères, 1875-92), vol. IV, 361 and 380.

[2] Jules Guiffrey, ed., “Logements d’artistes au Louvre,” Nouvelles archives de l’art français 2 (1873), 92.

[3] “Enquête sur l’état mental et les extravagances d’André Rouquet, peintre en émail du Roi…”, in Jules Guiffrey, ed., “Scellés et inventaires d’artistes,” Nouvelles archives de l’art français, 2ème série, 5 (1884), 254-269.

[4] Archives nationales de France, Minutier Central, XLII/462, Inventaire après décès, André Rouquet, 13 février 1759.

[5] Paris, Musée du Louvre, Départment des arts graphiques, INV 35745.

[6] Arnauld Doria, Louis Tocqué (Paris: Les Beaux-Arts, 1929), 25. This was indeed the case. When Tocqué died in 1772, the inventory of the apartment shows that he and his wife occupied all three floors plus the mezzanine. The rooms were furnished with coordinated suites of furniture and matching fabrics, expensive silverware and porcelain and a large number of paintings and prints. See David Maskill, “A Good Address: Living at the Louvre in the Eighteenth Century,” forthcoming in the edited volume Making Ideas Visible in the Eighteenth Century: Essays in Art History from the XVth David Nichol Smith Seminar.

 

Cite this article as: David Maskill, “The Neighbor from Hell: André Rouquet’s Eviction from the Louvre,” Journal18, Issue 2 Louvre Local (Fall 2016), http://www.journal18.org/822

Licence: CC BY-NC

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