Legat, Francis (DNB00)

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LEGAT, FRANCIS (1755–1809), engraver, was born in 1755 at Edinburgh. He is sometimes stated to have been of French origin, and he may possibly have been a descendant of François Leguat [q. v.] Legat studied art under Alexander Runciman [q. v.], and according to some accounts learnt engraving from Sir Robert Strange [q. v.] This is, however, uncertain. Legat came to London about 1780, and took lodgings at 22 Charles Street, Westminster, where he engraved for Boydell 'Mary Queen of Scots resigning the Crown.' from a picture by Gavin Hamilton (1730-1797) [q.v.], in the collection of James Boswell. Here also he engraved 'The Princes in the Tower.' from a picture by J. Northcote, R.A., in the collection of the 'Earl of Egremont. About 1790 he left Charles Street for Sloane Sauare, where he completed an engraving or 'The Death of Cordelia,' after the picture by James Barry, R. A., in the Shakespeare Gallery. In 1797 he moved again to 21 Pleasant Row, Camden Town, where he completed a plate of 'Cassandra' (a portrait of Lady Hamilton) from 'Troilus and Cressida.' after the picture by G. Romney in the Shakespeare Gallery. He finally moved in 1799 to 2 Charles Street, near the Middlesex Hospital, where he resided till his death. Here he engraved 'Ophelia' and 'King, Queen, and Laertes in Hamlet.' after pictures by Benjamin West. He was appointed historical engraver to the Prince of Wales. Encouraged by his success and the money brought to Boydell by his engravings, Legat determined to publish an engraving on his own account, and secured a picture of 'The Death of Sir Ralph Abercrombie' by Stothard for that purpose. The subscription list did not fill, and Legat fell into pecuniary embarrassment. He suffered from mental depression, and died in Charles Street on 7 April 1809, in his fifty-fifth year (Gent Mag. 1809, i. 890). He was buried in Old St. Pancras churchyard. His debts were paid by a friend, Mr. Kemp, and the unfinished plate was sold to Mr. Bowyer of the Historic Gallery, Pall Mall, who had it completed. Legat also engraved 'The Continence of Scipio.' after Nicolas Poussin, 'Andromeda.' after A. Runciman, vignettes and other subjects, after Smirke, Fuseli, &c, for 'Bell's British Theatre.' and other small subjects. He was a conscientious engraver, and paid attention to the study of drawing. He is described as quiet and intelligent, with some literary ability. A small portrait of him by Runciman was engraved by T. Prescott.

[J. T. Smith's Nollekens, ii. 351 ; Dodd 1 s manuscript Hist, of English Engravers (Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 33402); Edinb. Ann. Reg. 1816, cccclxxv. Redgrave's Dict. of Artists.]

L. C.