Painter John Francis Rigaud was born at Turin on 18 May 1742 into a merchant Huguenot family that had fled France with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. He studied with Chevalier Beaumont of Turin, historical painter to the King of Sardinia. Having settled in Rome, he befriended the Irish painter James Barry. In April 1770 he left Rome with Barry, travelling to Florence, Bologna, and Turin.
Rigaud arrived in London in December 1771 and became busily engaged in decorative paintin. Architect William Chambers provided him with a number of commissions, including work at Lord Melbourne’s house in Piccadilly (1772 and 1774) and Somerset House (1780). He also carried out decorative work for the Guildhall (1794) and Trinity House (1796). These works were executed in the fashionable Italian style, being mostly classical figures and imitations of bas-reliefs.
Rigaud also produced a large number of portraits, including group portraits of Francesco Bartolozzi, Agostino Carlini, and G. B. Cipriani, exhibited in 1777, and of Joshua Reynolds, William Chambers, and Joseph Wilton, exhibited in 1782. He was elected a Royal Academician in February 1784. Around 1800 he became more occupied as a restorer, being employed at Greenwich Hospital and Montague House.
In 1802 he published a translation of Leonardo da Vinci’s A Treatise on Painting. He died in December 1810. His son, history and portrait painter Stephen Francis Dutilh Rigaud, was born at no. 44 Great Titchfield Street on 26 December 1777.