Watchmaker Isaac Emmanuel Bourgeois was born in 1726 in Yveden in the canton of Berne. Details are lacking, but he must have arrived in London around 1750. He ran his business from no. 22 Haymarket. [Peter] Francis Bourgeois was born in London in November 1756. His English mother Elizabeth Gordon died in February 1767 in childbirth.
A year later Noël Desenfans arrived in England from his native France. He may have lodged with Bourgeois and the two men became friends. When Isaac Bourgeois decided to return to his native Switzerland, he entrusted the upbringing of his son to Desenfans and his English wife Margaret (née Morris).
Noël was operating as an art dealer and Francis, himself a painter of minor significance, became his assistant. When Desenfans died in July 1807, he bequeathed his collections of paintings to Bourgeois. Francis died, unmarried, in January 1811 and left some 350 pictures to Mrs Desenfans on condition that she would donate them to Dulwich College. Bourgeois also left an endowment for the creation of a new gallery (incorporating a mausoleum) at Dulwich College to be designed by John Soane. In March 1815 Bourgeois, and Noël and Margaret Desenfans were interred in the mausoleum within the art gallery.