art, artiste, peintre, peinture, Franche-Comté

François-Xavier Vispré

Besançon, 1730 - Londres, 1792

Né à Besançon (Doubs)1; mort en Angleterre après 17782. Travaillait à Paris en 1750, date de ses gravures en manière noire des portraits de Louis XV, Marie-Henriette de FranceFrançois-Xavier Vispré, Henriette de France et Louis-Philippe, duc de Chartres, d'après Liotard. De 1775 à 1770 [sic], il y fit annoncer ses tableaux peints sur glace3. En 1756, il publia, à Paris, une Méthode pour devenir peintre en trois heures. Fixé à Londres, il y prit part aux expositions de 1763 à 1778 et travailla pour Dublin. Outre les pièces exposées, il a gravé encore un Bacchus, d'après Eisen, et un portrait de Mademoiselle Caroline, actrice de la Comédie ItalienneFrançois-Xavier Vispré, Portrait de la marquise de Silly, née Anna-Maria Veronese, dite Mlle Coraline, de la Comédie-Italienne, vers 1750 gravé par Vispré, d'après Allais4. Antiquaire passionné, il fut admis à la Société des Antiquaires de Dublin5.

In : Dictionnaire des Artistes et Ouvriers d'Art de la Franche-Comté
Abbé Paul Brune, 1912


1) — L'origine bisontine de cet artiste, que les lexiques font naître à Paris vers 1730, est précisée par les mentions suivantes des Affiches, annonces et avis divers : « Vispré, de Besançon, peint d'après nature sur des miroirs de toilette et sur d'autres glaces des fleurs, des fruits et des oiseaux », 1755. — Vispré, de Besançon, peint à l'huile avec un goût singulier et d'après nature, sur des glaces de toilette et autres miroirs, des fleurs, des fruits, des oiseaux et toutes sortes d'ornements chinois, » 1753. — (Table, par Trudon des Ormes, B. A.).

2) — M. Bryan. Diclionary of painters und engravers, A. Graves. A Dictionnary of artists.

3) Tableaux de fruits et de fleurs, 1765. Tableaux peints sur glace, 1770 (Affiches, annonces et avis divers, Table, par Trudon des Ormes, B. A).

4) — Ch. Le Blanc, Manuel de l'amateur d'estampes, t.. IV, p. 129, R. Portalis et H. Beraldi. Les Graveurs du XVIIIe siècle, t. III, p. 626.

5) — George C. Williamson, The History of Portrait Miniatures, t. Ier siècle, p. 195.

VISPRE, Francois-Xavier,
Paris? c.1730 — London 1792

• Francois-Xavier Vispre (Vespré, Visprez, Francis, Xavierus, Saverino and many other variant spellings are found) was from a Huguenot family, possibly of Swiss origin. He worked in pastel, oil, miniature and mezzotint, while his elder brother Victor specialised in glass painting his father, Francois Visprez or Vispray, was a limonadier, while his mother, Elisabeth Marcoul, came from Voisey (Haute-Marne). These details are know from the baptismal record of Victor, born in Besancon 20.v.1727, but that of Francois-Xavier has not been found. He may have been born in or near Paris, where he received his artistic training. It is possible that they were related to Jean-Baptiste Vispre, a soldier in the Swiss service and his wife, née Anne Gamier. The eldest son, also Jean-Baptiste (1706 - p.1779), lieutenant d'infanterie caporal of the Cent Suisse de la garde du roi, was born in Bagneux (Yvelines); he married the daughter of Jean Dorleans, a vigneron in Nanterre. Early records of the brothers in Paris the 1750s are confused. Francois-Xavier was in Paris in 1750, where he engraved portraits of the royal family after Liotard as well as a pastel by Allais. He is noted in the Compondance litteraire (13.vii.1750) as "un Allemand qui grave en manière noir". By the mid-1750s he had moved to England and was noted in Bristol on 29.v.1756 (Long, cited Foskett); he was there again in 1775. He then worked in London, exhibiting at the Society of Artists between 1760 and 1783 from addresses in Soho (Thrift Street 1764, Craven Street 1769, Porter Street in 1780 and 1783, no. 18 in 1783, while "Mr Vispre, miniature-painter, 17 Porter Street, Newport Market" appears in a trade card, British Museum). On 6.xii.1758 a certain Vispré was granted a vicar general marriage licence to marry a Mlle Marteau in the diocese of Canterbury; no other details are recorded. On 12.iv.1764 the marriage is recorded at St Anne's, Soho between Francis Xaverius Vispré and one Mary Hunter; a mezzotint of a young woman reading, lettered "Vispre Pinxit et Fecit", has been identified as of "Mrs Vispre" by annotations on the British Museum copy. On 24.v.1766 a James Vespre, on of Francis Xavierus and Mary, was baptised at St Swithin's Walcot, Bath; the same child (unless a second boy of that name), was buried at St Martin in the Fields on 20.v.1768.
Although there is no documented connection, another son may be the John Vispre, ensign promoted to lieutenant by purchase in the 53rd Foot in 1795, transferred to the 38th Foot in 1796, but deceased by 23.1X.1797 (London gazette); he might be the John Vespre, son of Francis, of Little St Helens (described as a merchant), who was apprenticed to James Riley of the Musicians' Company on 15.1.1790.
Mrs Vispre was probably the plaintiff in "Vispre otherwise Hunter v Dyson & ors" concerning the estate of James Webb of Craven Street, Strand in 1772. From 1776 to 1780 Vispre was in Dublin with his brother Victor; in the Dublin exhibition of 1777, he showed miniatures and portraits in crayons, while his brother showed fruit pieces on glass. In 1784 he sent two letters to the Society of Arts concerning the cultivation of vines in England; this was followed, two years later, by the publication of his A dissertation on the growth of wine in England, Bath, 1786 (reinforcing the suggestion that he was related to the Bagneux Vispres), on the basis of which he was included in Felton (1830) as "a most inoffensive man, of the mildest manners, and of the purest integrity", much esteemed by Sir Joshua Reynolds. A correspondent sent extracts of the Dissertation to the Gentleman's magazine (.vii.1791, p. 705), calling the author "an ingenious French gentleman" whom he had met at Sir Gregory Page-Turner's (Vispré exhibited an oil portrait of the baronet at the Royal Academy in 1788). He sent portraits and religious pieces (medium unspecified) to the Royal Academy exhibitions of 1788 and 1789, from 78 St Martin's Lane. Perhaps c.1790 he was in Cambridge: a trade card affixed to the back of a miniature in the V&A (for which a date of c.1794 has been proposed) reads "F. X. VISPRE, miniature & crayon painter, (from London) takes likenesses Prices from Three to Six Guineas. At Mr. Clarke's, Ironmonger, Bridge-Street, Cambridge." According to Felton, he died poor, in St Martin's Lane, before 1800; in fact Francis Xeveramas Vespre [sic] of St Martin's Lane was buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 28.wiii.1792, and the fee recorded in the parish burial account book, £1/18/8, was among the highest noted, suggesting that he was far from a pauper.
"Mrs Mary Vespre", his widow, was recorded in the rates books as the proprietor of property in Ealing until at least 1798. Mary Vispré's will was given probate in London in 1800: among other bequests, she left to the author Samuel Felton of King's Arms Yard, Coleman Street, "the picture of myself and my late husband as well as the fruit piece on glass and the two miniatures painted by my late husband". (Felton, a scrivener and attorney from Market Drayton and of Curzon Street before his bankruptcy in 1795, was best known as the owner of a Shakespeare portrait. He was recorded in Northumberland Street before a spell in the Fleet prison in 1806, which might explain why, in 1830, he did not know the whereabouts of the pastel of Vispre bequeathed to him.) The residual beneficiary and executor was Charles Angibaud, a surgeon and son of the famous Huguenot apothecary to Louis XIV and Charles II.