French painting

Portrait of Mathilde de Canisy, Marquise d'Antin

Jean-Marc Nattier
Paris, 1685 - Paris, 1766

1738, oil on canvas, 118 x 96 cm
Picture Gallery

Among the many portraits in the Jacquemart-André collection, the portrait of Mathilde de Canisy is one of the most popular. Of course, this is due in no small amount to the talent of its creator, the painter Jean-Marc Nattier. The portraitist of Louis XV and members of his family, he succeeded in giving a charm to these severe characters by using moiré fabrics, delicate colours and by dressing them up as goddesses of beauty. The queen Marie Leszczynska, the wife of Louis XV, and their daughters particularly liked the softness, elegance and lightness that he introduced into a genre that was traditionally majestic: court portraits. Nattier painted this painting in 1783, a few years prior to becoming the appointed portraitist to the royal family.
“Pretty, gracious, vivacious and still rather young” was how this portrait of Mathilde de Canisy, only just turned 14, was described. The painter painted her at the foot of an oak, in front of a landscape that she overlooks, playing with a little black dog and holding a budgerigar on her right hand.
Here Nattier gives a wonderful example of his art. The composition is very assertive, with the diagonal formed by the arms with inverse curves, but the pose is graceful. The model has kept something of her childhood in the softness of her features. The painter insisted on the play of cloth and took pleasure in splitting the fabric into “precious rocailles”. A garland of flowers crosses the white silk dress as a sash. A few flowers in her hair recall this motif, and the touches of colour.
In this painting, it is primarily the innocence of the young woman and her radiant insouciance that touches us, evidence that the painter knew how to get to the heart and soul of his subjects.

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