Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nattier, Jean-Marc

Portrait of Louis XV of France
oil on canvas
80 × 64 cm (31.5 × 25.2 in)
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

Jean-Marc Nattier (1685 - 1766), French painter, was born in Paris. His father was a painter and his mother was a miniaturist. He is noted for his portraits of the ladies of King Louis XV's court in classical mythological attire. He was one of the most successful artists at the court of Louis XV, excelling in the vogue for painting women in mythological or allegorical fancy dress - or undress - transforming his matrons into goddesses.

Nattier aspired to be a history painter but the financial collapse of 1720 ruined him, and he found himself forced to devote his whole energy to portraiture. He became the painter of the artificial ladies of Louis XV's court. He subsequently revived the genre of the allegorical portrait, in which a living person is depicted as a Greco-Roman goddess or other mythological figure. His graceful and charming portraits of court ladies in this mode were very fashionable, partly because he could beautify a sitter while also retaining her likeness. His portraits are little concerned with individual characterization, but they show fluency, vivacity, and a relaxed charm. He was at his best with women and has been accused of 'painting with make-up', a comment that suggests the pastel-like delicacy of his handling. Taste was turning against him towards the end of his career and some of his later work shows signs of fatigue.