This is a disguised portrait, in which the sitter is shown as Diana, goddess of the hunt, with her traditional attributes, the bow and the quiver of arrows. She is dressed in virginal white. It seems likely that she was Mademoiselle Belot, who, the year the portrait was painted, became the third wife of Étienne de Maison-Rouge, receveur général des finances. The tightly coiffed and powdered hair worn with a small corsage of flowers was typical for the time.
Between 1730 and 1760, the period which marked Nattier's rise to prominence and his decline, he espoused two models for his portraits of women at Versailles and in wealthy Paris society. He showed these clients either in court or formal costume (that is, a lace or elaborately embroidered dress with an oval neckline, narrow sleeves to the elbow, and a tight, pointed bodice), or, in accordance with his own preference, he painted them in loose, low cut draperies and in allegorical guise. In either case they usually wore their short hair lightly powdered and ornamented with flowers. Nattier's preferred colors in addition to white were blue, ivory, and red, and his shiny fabrics look like satin. He used three formats, bust-, half-, and, as here, three-quarter length, the size best suited to his allegories. In the case of disguised portraits, the sitters were identified by their attributes, in this case the bow and quiver with arrows of Diana, virgin goddess of the hunt.
The lady here has been identified as the former Mademoiselle Belot, wife of Étienne de Maison-Rouge, a wealthy public official who held the title receveur général des finances. The couple married in 1756, the year the portrait was painted. The identification is based on a close resemblance to a portrait of Madame de Maison-Rouge dating to 1757 and shown at the Salon (it belongs now to Lynda and Stewart Resnick, Los Angeles). Here she wears the white draperies so characteristic of Nattier fastened with a jewel-encrusted band, and a knotted tiger skin which must have been one of the artist's studio properties. The oak and twining ivy in the background are also typical.
[Katharine Baetjer 2011]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Nattier p.x. / 1756.
?de Mondésir, château de Rochemont, near Cherbourg; [Gimpel & Wildenstein, New York, until 1903; sold to MMA]
Athens. National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Memories and Revivals of the Classical Spirit," September 24–December 31, 1979, no. 54 (as "Portrait of a Lady as Diana").
Versailles. Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon. "Jean-Marc Nattier," October 26, 1999–January 30, 2000, no. 76.
Pierre de Nolhac. J.-M. Nattier: Peintre de la cour de Louis XV. Paris, 1905, p. 122 [1910 ed., p. 201], as an unknown woman, incorrectly identified as the princesse de Condé as Diana, recently acquired by the Metropolitan Museum.
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, p. 17, no. 139.
Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 121–23, ill.
René Gimpel. Diary of an Art Dealer. English ed. New York, 1966, p. 298, observes that his father's biggest sale of the 1902–03 New York season was to the Metropolitan Museum: this Nattier and a Largillière for $70,000.
John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. Ed. Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie. London, 1984, p. 231.
Margaret Robinson. Courbet's Hunt Scenes: The End of a Tradition. Providence, 1990, p. 18, no. 19.
Xavier Salmon. Jean-Marc Nattier, 1685–1766. Exh. cat., Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon. Paris, 1999, pp. 100, 184, 266–70, no. 76, ill. (color), identifies the sitter as Madame de Maison-Rouge, who also sat for a portrait in the guise of Venus which was exhibited at the Salon of 1757.
Xavier Salmon. "Le musée idéal." Dossier de l'art no. 62 (November 1999), p. 62, colorpl. 12.
J. Patrice Marandel inEye for the Sensual: Selections from the Resnick Collection. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Stuttgart, 2010, p. 127, under no. 29.
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