Gardelle, Theodore (DNB00)

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GARDELLE, THEODORE (1721–1761), limner and murderer, born in Geneva in 1721, was son of Giovino Gardelle of Ravenna, who was settled at Geneva. Gardelle was educated at Turretine's charity school, and apprenticed to M. Bousquet, a limner and printseller. He ran away to Paris, but eventually returned to Geneva, paying renewed visits to Paris. He left Geneva finally in 1756, taking with him a woman whom he passed off as his wife, and whom he seems to have deserted in Paris, and then went to Brussels, and eventually to England. A life of Gardelle (published in 1761) narrates that he became acquainted with Voltaire at Geneva, drew his portrait and enamelled it on a snuff-box, went to Paris with a recommendation from Voltaire to Surugue, the chief engraver to the king, and was advised by the Duc de Choiseul to try his fortune in London. The sordid circumstances of Gardelle's life render this account very doubtful. He arrived in London in 1760 and soon found employment as a miniature-painter. He lodged in Leicester Square in a house kept by a Mrs. Anne King, a woman of light character. On 19 Feb. 1761, when, according to his own account, they were alone in the house together they had an altercation over her portrait, which Gardelle had painted; this ended in blows, Mrs. King eventually falling against a bedstead and striking her head. To silence her screams he in terror cut her throat with a penknife. The more probable account is that Gardelle, having sent the servant out on some excuse, attempted violence, and that his victim's resistance frightened him to the murder. Having concealed the body he was unable to dispose of it for some days, but eventually cut it up and dispersed it under very revolting circumstances. Discovery soon ensued, and Gardelle was arrested on 27 Feb. He made an unsuccessful attempt at suicide with laudanum, but was convicted and executed at the corner of Panton Street, Haymarket, on 4 April 1761. His body was hung in chains on Hounslow Heath. Hogarth drew his portrait at his execution, which was engraved by Samuel Ireland in his ‘Graphic Illustrations of Hogarth.’

[Life of Theodore Gardelle, London, 1761; Gent. Mag. 1761, xxxi. 171; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists.]

L. C.