The Wallace Collection

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Jean-Marc Nattier (1685 - 1766)
  • Place of Birth: Paris, France
  • Place of Death: Paris, France
Biography
Works of Art

Jean-Marc Nattier was one of the most fashionable portrait painters of the eighteenth-century in France and received important commissions from the royal court. Born on 17 March 1685 in Paris into a family of painters, son of the portrait painter Marc Nattier (1642-1703) who gave him his original traning. Together with his brother Jean-Baptiste, he produced a series of drawings after Rubens's Marie de Médicis cycle in the Luxembourg Palace in 1702-04 for a series of engravings published by their father. In 1715, he became candidate (agréé) at the Academy and was accepted as a history painter in 1718.

In 1717, he travelled to Amsterdam to paint portraits of Tsar Peter the Great and his court but declined to go to Russia as a court artist. In the following years, he became one of the fashionable society portraitists in Paris. He developed the 'portrait historié' as his speciality often depicting his sitters in allegorical or mythological roles. Increasingly popular in court circles, he was particularly favoured by Louis XV's daughters, whom he painted both as the Seasons and the Elements. Of his many portraits at Versailles, those of the Queen (cf. P437) of 1748 and the whole-length of Madame Henriette of 1754 earned the highest praise. In 1746, he was nominated professor at the Academy His critical fortunes changed in the later 1750s. He died in Paris on 7 September 1766 after he had been incapacitated in 1762. Repeatedly during his life Jean-Marc Nattier was hit by family misfortune: his mother was paralysed, his brother, the painter Jean-Baptiste (1678-1717) committed suicide in 1726 and was retrospectively excluded from the Academy after he had been caught by the police as a homosexual; Jean-Marc's son drowned in Rome in 1754.