Madame Marsollier was married, beneath her station, to a Parisian textile merchant whose shop was in the rue Saint-Honoré. He later bought her a title. Her portrait, exhibited at the Salon in 1750, displays in full measure the luxury fabrics that were the source of his fortune. The lady and her child are en déshabille, in revealing draperies that accentuate their pearly skin. It is not surprising that the wealthy couple would have commissioned a portrait from Nattier, who was at the time the preeminent painter of the French royal family.
Jean Marc Nattier, born in Paris, trained with his father and with Jean Jouvenet (1649–1717). As early as 1700 he won a prize for drawing at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Although he was received in 1718 as a history painter, Nattier specialized in portraiture, and in the same year had painted Peter the Great and his consort (State Hermitage, St. Petersburg) during their visit to Holland. Early in his career Nattier prepared many drawings, for both portraits and reproductive engravings. He developed a style that was both naturalistic and ingratiating, often presenting his sitters in allegorical guise. By 1740 he had achieved success in society and was taken up at court, where he took sittings from the younger daughters of Louis XV (1710–1774) and from the Queen, Marie Leszczynska (1703–1768), for portraits now at the Château de Versailles.
Nattier exhibited regularly at the Salon between 1737 and 1763. Among his best and most famous works, shown at the Salon of 1750, is this double portrait of the beautiful Madame Marsollier (d. 1756) with her only daughter, Marie Thérèse (ca. 1735–1784), later marquise de Chamilly. Madame Marsollier, born Marie Catherine Leleu, had married below her station one René Marsollier, an exceedingly wealthy textile merchant with a shop in the rue Saint Honoré. He bought her a title and she became the comtesse de Neubourg. It was said of her that after she married she entered neither the shop nor the street in which it was located, and on this account she was referred to in jest as the "duchesse de velours," the velvet duchess.
Madame Marsollier is a statuesque figure in her undress: a revealing chemise and blue and white draperies clasped with a jeweled belt. Her hands and those of her daughter hold the two figures together, while their glances draw them apart. The gilded mirror, ewer, and boxes are expensive objects of high quality and elegant design. The marble arches in the background suggest a palatial interior, while the abundant velvet drapery tied with gold tassels endows the composition with dignity and gravitas.
[Katharine Baetjer 2010]
Inscription: Signed and dated (right, on pilaster): Nattier pinxit. / 1749
René Marsollier, comte de Neubourg, Paris (from 1749); Marie Thérèse Marsollier, comtesse de Neubourg, later marquise de Chamilly (until d. 1787); Claude Christophe Lorimier, marquis de Chamilly (1787–d. 1794); Adélaïde Marie Octavie Lorimier de Chamilly, marquise de Pernon (1794–d. 1849); Théodore, vicomte Marc de Saint-Pierre (1849–d. 1861); Maurice, vicomte Marc de Saint-Pierre (1861–91); Monsieur and Madame Jules Porgès, Paris (1891–at least 1910, sold to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, Paris and New York, from about 1913; sold to Duveen]; [Duveen, New York, by 1925–27; sold to Rice]; Mrs. A. Hamilton Rice, New York (1927–29; sold to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, New York, 1929–30; sold to Schuette]; Mrs. Robert W. Schuette, New York (1930–45)
Paris. Salon. "[no title]," 1750, no. 67 (as "Madame Marsolier à sa Toilette, avec Mademoiselle sa Fille").
Paris. Galerie Georges Petit. "Cent chefs-d'œuvre des écoles françaises et étrangères," June 8–?, 1892, no. 30 (as "Portrait," lent by Mme Porgès).
Paris. Jeu de Paume. "Cent portraits de femmes," April 23–July 1, 1909, no. 81 (as "Portrait de la Comtesse de Saint-Pierre et de sa fille," lent by Jules Porgès).
Berlin. Königliche Akademie der Künste. "Ausstellung von Werken Französischer Kunst des XVIII. Jahrhunderts," January 26–March 6, 1910, no. 149 (as "Madame Marsollier, genannt Gräfin von St. Pierre, und ihre Tochter," lent by Madame Jules Porgès).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Painting and Sculpture of the XVIII Century," November 6, 1935–January 5, 1936, no. 16 (as "Mme Marsollier and Her Daughter," lent by Mrs. Robert W. Schuette).
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European & American Paintings, 1500–1900," May–October 1940, no. 222 (as "Comtesse de Marsollier et sa Fille," lent by Mrs. Robert W. Schuette, New York).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "France in the Eighteenth Century," January 6–March 3, 1968.
Yokohama Museum of Art. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century," March 25–June 4, 1989, no. 42.
Versailles. Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon. "Jean-Marc Nattier," October 26, 1999–January 30, 2000, no. 54.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Thinking Outside the Box: European Cabinets, Caskets, and Cases from the Permanent Collection (1500–1900)," December 7, 2010–October 30, 2011, no catalogue [withdrawn early].
Los Angeles. J. Paul Getty Museum. "Paris: Life & Luxury," April 26–August 7, 2011, no. 94.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Paris: Life & Luxury," September 18, 2011–January 1, 2012, no. 94.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Metropolitan Vanities: The History of the Dressing Table," December 17, 2013–April 13, 2014, unnumbered cat. (fig. 37).
Alfred Trumble. "From Day to Day." The Collector 3, no. 2 (November 15, 1891), p. 21, remarks that Jules Porgès was the purchaser of "the famous Nattier from the estate of the Marquis de St. Pierre, a portrait in the full size of life, in the artist's highest style, of Mme. de St. Pierre and her daughter".
Frédéric Masson. "Un livre de M. Pierre de Nolhac sur J.-M. Nattier." Les arts 3, no. 35 (1904), pp. 6, 8, illustrates the Weimar drawing.
Pierre de Nolhac. J.-M. Nattier: Peintre de la cour de Louis XV. Paris, 1905, pp. 109–10, 146, 157, identifies the sitter as Mme Marsollier, connecting it with the drawing in Weimar which is inscribed "J.-M. Nattier pinx. et delineavit 1757".
G. Brière. "Catalogue critique des oeuvres d'artistes français réunies à l'exposition de cent portraits de femmes du XVIIIe siècle." Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français (1909), pp. 134–35, observes that the portrait lent by M. Porgès represents Mme Marsollier, noting the picture's title at the 1750 Salon.
P.-André Lemoisne. "Les cent portraits de femmes." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 25 (June 1909), p. 406.
André Pératé. "Notes on the Portrait Exhibition in Paris—I." Burlington Magazine 15, no. 75 (June 1909), p. 145.
Charles Saunier. "Exposition de cent portraits de femmes des écoles anglaise et française du XVIIe siècle." Les arts 8, no. 91 (July 1909), pp. 8, 10, ill.
Maurice Tourneux. "Exposition de cent portraits de femmes du XVIII siècle." Gazette des beaux-arts 51, no. 1 (1909), p. 488.
Armand Dayot et al. Maitres du XVIIIe siècle: Cent portraits de femmes des écoles anglaise & française. Paris, , pp. 81–82, no. 81, ill., as "Portrait de la Comtesse de Chamilly, née Marc-Saint-Pierre, et de sa fille, qui fut Comtesse de Neubourg"; observes that the work remained in the family at Saint-Pierre-du-Fresne until 1892 and was acquired by Porgès from the marquis Dafosse.
Paul Seidel inAusstellung von Werken Französischer Kunst des XVIII. Jahrhunderts. Exh. cat., Königliche Akademie der Künste. Berlin, 1910, pp. 23, 35, no. 92.
Pierre de Nolhac. Nattier: Peintre de la cour de Louis XV. 3rd ed. Paris, 1925, pp. 197–98, 261–62, 276, as belonging to Duveen.
Georges Huard in "Nattier 1685 à 1766." Les peintres français du XVIIIe siècle: Histoire des vies et catalogue des oeuvres. Ed. Louis Dimier. Paris, 1930, vol. 2, pp. 111, 127, no. 103, as "Mme Marsolier, dite comtesse de Saint-Pierre".
Alfred M. Frankfurter. "Thirty-Five Portraits from American Collections." Art News 29, no. 33 (May 16, 1931), p. 4, ill. (plates unnumbered).
Harry B. Wehle inFrench Painting and Sculpture of the XVIII Century. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1935, p. 6, no. 16, ill.
Harry B. Wehle. "French Painting and Sculpture of the XVIIIth Century." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 30 (November 1935), p. 207, ill.
Mary Morsell. "The Metropolitan Opens Fine Show of French Art." Art News 34, no. 6 (November 9, 1935), p. 4, ill.
"Au Metropolitan Museum: L'art du XVIII siècle." Beaux-arts 73, no. 153 (December 6, 1935), p. 1, ill.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), ill. p. 36.
Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, vol. 1, pp. 120–21, ill., the Marquis Dafosse as a resident of the Château de Saint-Pierre-du-Fresne (Calvados) is introduced into the provenance.
Denys Sutton. France in the Eighteenth Century. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1968, p. 101, no. 495, fig. 150.
Denys Sutton. "Frivolity and Reason." Apollo 125 (February 1987), p. 87, pl. 2 (color).
John T. Spike. "Europe in the Age of Monarchy." The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1987, pp. 152–53, ill. (color).
Katharine Baetjer et al. inTreasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art. Tokyo, 1989, pp. 20, 94–96, no. 42, ill. (color).
Donald Garstang inThe French Portrait, 1550–1850. Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1996, p. 97, mentions this picture in connection with Nattier's 1757 bust-length portrait of Mademoiselle Marsollier, who appears here as a young girl.
Donald Posner. "The 'Duchesse de Velours' and Her Daughter: A Masterpiece by Nattier and Its Historical Context." Metropolitan Museum Journal 31 (1996), pp. 131–41, fig. 1, examines the historical and biographical context of the portrait, and its "thoughtfully wrought iconographic construction," namely the pretense of social distinction on the part of the sitter, a textile merchant's wife.
Arts of France. Christie's, New York. October 21, 1997, p. 52, ill., notes that the two caskets in this painting are "remarkably similar" to those sold here as lots 21 and 20, respectively, both dated about 1715.
Xavier Salmon. "The Drawings of Jean-Marc Nattier: Identifying the Master's Hand." Apollo 146 (November 1997), p. 9.
Xavier Salmon. Jean-Marc Nattier, 1685–1766. Exh. cat., Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon. Paris, 1999, pp. 203–6, no. 54, ill. (color), suggests that the appearance of the marquis Dafosse in the provenance is a misreading of the name of the marquis Dodun de Keroman, the husband of Louise de Saint-Pierre, a descendent of Mme Marsollier.
Philippe Renard. Jean-Marc Nattier (1685–1766): Un artiste parisien à la cour de Louis XV. Saint-Rémy-en-l'Eau, 1999, p. 215.
Melissa Hyde. "The 'Makeup' of the Marquise: Boucher's Portrait of Pompadour at Her Toilette." Art Bulletin 82, no. 3 (September 2000), pp. 459, 473 n. 34, ill.
Anne Hollander. Fabric of Vision: Dress and Drapery in Painting. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 2002, pp. 84–86, ill. (color).
Joseph Baillio et al. The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier. Exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc. New York, , pp. 56, 73, no. 42, ill.
David Mandrella inFrom Callot to Greuze: French Drawings from Weimar. Exh. cat., Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen. Berlin, 2005, p. 182, fig. 1, under no. 64 [German ed., "Von Callot bis Greuze"].
Philippe Bordes. "Interpreting Portraits: Images of Society or the Self?" Dialogues in Art History, from Mesopotamian to Modern: Readings for a New Century. Ed. Elizabeth Cropper. Washington, 2009, pp. 307–9, fig. 1 (color).
Joseph Baillio inFrench Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century. Washington, 2009, p. 139, fig. 1.
Daniëlle O. Kisluk-Grosheide. "Inside the Box and Out: European Cabinets, Caskets, and Cases." Antiques 178 (March/April 2011), p. 131, fig. 15 (color).
Kira d' Alburquerque, Emily Beeny, and Grace Chuang inParis: Life & Luxury in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Charissa Bremer-David. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles, 2011, pp. 123, 132, no. 94.
Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell inParis: Life & Luxury in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Charissa Bremer-David. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles, 2011, pp. 59, 65, 67–68, fig. 41 (color).
Thierry Claeys. Dictionnaire biographique des financiers en France au XVIIIe siècle. 3rd ed. Paris, 2011, vol. 2, p. 1533 n. 9421.
Jane Adlin. "Vanities: Art of the Dressing Table." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 71 (Fall 2013), p. 28, fig. 37 (color).
Nattier's drawing after our picture, dated 1757, is in the Kunstsammlungen, Weimar. A copy of the painting was in a private collection, Paris, in 1999 (see Nouveau Drouot, Paris, November 17, 1986, no. 60, ill., as by a follower of Nattier) and another was in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California.
Artist: Jean Marc Nattier (French, Paris 1685–1766 Paris)Date: ca. 1730Medium: Black chalk, heightened with white, on brown paper; verso: faint white chalk sketch of a male figureAccession: 1987.197.1On view in:Not on view