The son of a professor at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Charles Antoine Coypel was received and admitted in 1715, at a session over which his father presided. Destined for success, in 1747 Charles Antoine was appointed first painter to King Louis XV of France. He was also a writer but his sketches for plays met with limited success, and only one was staged in Paris, at the Théâtre Italian in 1717. Coypel's oeuvre includes genre scenes, caricatures, and portraits in addition to historical and religious subjects in the grand manner. He was principally a painter and draftsman and his exceptional pastels are few in number. The earliest date to 1717 and represent Nicolas Charles Silvestre and his wife (private collection), fellow artists, and drawing masters to the children of the royal family. This double portrait, a recent acquisition, is among Coypel's latest and most accomplished: it displays dazzling control of pastel, chalk, and watercolor.
Traditionally, the sitters have been identified as François de Jullienne (1722–1754) and his wife, Marie Élisabeth de Séré de Rieux (1724–1795). The couple had married two years before, at eighteen and sixteen respectively. She held a rather more distinguished position in society and he brought wealth to the marriage, as the only surviving child of Jean de Jullienne (1686–1766), a highly successful Parisian textile merchant, collector of paintings and drawings, and patron of Antoine Watteau (1684–1721). We know little of François, who in 1743, the year in which he sat for his portrait, celebrated his twenty-first birthday. In 1744, his son having chosen not to enter the family business, Jean de Jullienne purchased for him the title of "gentilhomme ordinaire du roi". Presumably the childless couple lived the life of leisure and luxury which Jean de Jullienne was able to provide for them. François did not survive his father, whose celebrated collection was dispersed at public auction.
[Katharine Baetjer 2011]