Tocqué’s image depicts Jean Marc Nattier, a very fashionable portrait painter, working at his easel. Tocqué studied with Nattier in the 1720s and married Nattier’s daughter in 1747. While the face is brought to a high degree of resolution, the sitter’s hands, palette, and clothing are left deliberately unfinished, evoking the artistic process and creativity before the canvas. This spirited sketch probably dates to about 1740, and it served as the inspiration for Tocqué’s reception piece, signed and dated 1762, for the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Acceptance into several academies in different European capitals attested to an artist’s international reputation and clientele.
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Title:Jean Marc Nattier (1685–1766)
Artist:Louis Tocqué (French, 1696–1772)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:30 1/2 x 23 1/4 in. (77.5 x 59.1 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Colonel and Mrs. Jacques Balsan, 1955
After the death in 1710 of his father, the painter Luc Tocqué, Louis studied with Nicolas Bertin (1688–1736) and then, at a date which has not been determined, he entered the atelier of Jean Marc Nattier (1685–1766), where his style as a portraitist was formed. In 1731 Tocqué became a candidate member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture and in 1734 he was received as an academician. The portraits that he exhibited at the Salon of 1737 were afforded a positive critical reception. At fifty, in 1747, he married Nattier’s daughter Marie Catherine Pauline (1725–1775) and the two artists, close friends, formed a closer association. Judging by Nattier’s age, this sketch may date to about 1740. Tocqué retained it and it is the source for the composition of the reception piece, signed and dated 1762, that he presented to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts the following year.
In 1758–59, Louis Tocqué had visited Copenhagen to paint members of the Danish royal family. During the visit he was elected both an academician and a counselor of the Danish academy and shortly thereafter Nattier was elected a foreign associate member. Both were to present examples of their work according to custom, but after Tocqué returned to Paris he fell ill, and, also very busy, he was for a time unable to fulfill his obligation. Tocqué’s 1762 portrait (Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi, Copenhagen) shows Nattier seated before an easel, palette in hand, in a chair upholstered in blue damask. He has a slightly thinner face and looks older than he does in the sketch, as indeed he was. He wears a gray velvet fur-lined coat and the picture has a dark, silvery tonality. The portrait that Nattier painted in old age of Tocqué (Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi), by contrast, shows an upright figure with a palette dressed in a peach-colored coat, against a light background.
Katharine Baetjer 2014
the artist (until d. 1772); his widow, Marie Catherine Pauline Nattier Tocqué, Paris (1772–d. 1775); her sister, Charlotte Claudine Nattier Brochier (1775–d. 1779); by descent through the Goupil family to Raffard; Adrien Raffard (until 1924; as Self-portrait by Nattier, sold to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, Paris, 1924; as Self-portrait by Nattier, sold to Balsan]; Colonel and Mrs. Jacques Balsan, Paris and New York (1924–55)
Paris. location unknown. "Le siècle de Louis XV vu par les artistes," 1934, no. 182 (as "Son portrait par lui-même," by Nattier, lent by M. le colonel Balsan).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Portrait of the Artist," January 18–March 7, 1972, no. 12 (as "Jean Marc Nattier [1685–1766]," by Tocqué).
Posthumous inventory of Louis Tocqué. February 17, 1772 [Archives Nationales de France, Paris, Minutier Central des Notaires de Paris, étude XLV, 543; see Marandet 2013], includes, among items in the sitting room of the artist's apartment in the Louvre, a painting on canvas depicting Monsieur Nattier, father of Madame Tocqué, possibly this work.
Will of Marie Catherine Pauline Nattier Tocqué. March 27, 1775 [Archives Nationales de France, Paris, Minutier Central des Notaires de Paris, étude CXIII, 477; see Marandet 2013], bequeathes this picture to her sister Charlotte Claudine Nattier, wife of François Philippe Brochier.
Posthumous inventory of Marie Catherine Pauline Nattier Tocqué. April 10, 1775 [Archives Nationales de France, Paris, Minutier Central des Notaires de Paris, étude CXIII, 477; see Marandet 2013], lists it as "un tableau peint sur toile représentant le d[it] S[ieu]r Nattier dont les vêtements ne sont qu'ébauchés dans sa bordure de bois dorée, le dit portrait cité pour mémoire attendu sa nature mais la bordure est ici prisée huit livres".
comte Arnauld Doria. Louis Tocqué. Paris, 1929, p. 128, no. 243, attributes this picture to Tocqué rather than to Nattier and notes that it descended from the sitter through the Goupil family to Adrien Raffard; identifies it as the sketch for Tocqué's 1762 portrait of Nattier, which was presented as the younger artist's reception piece to the Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen.
Ernst Goldschmidt. Frankrigs Malerkunst. Vol. 5, David og hans skole. Copenhagen, 1934, pp. 202–6, ill., as a self-portrait by Nattier.
D. de Charnage. "Chronique artistique: Le siècle de Louis XV vu par les artistes." La Croix (June 22, 1934).
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "New Accessions of Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 14 (April 1956), p. 198, ill. p. 200, as a portrait of Nattier by Tocqué.
Else Kai Sass. "Nattier-Tocqué et vice-versa." Opuscula in Honorem C. Hernmarck 27.12.1966. Stockholm, 1966, pp. 189–93, ill., proposes—on the basis of comparison with Voiriot's 1759 portrait of Nattier and the artist's own family portrait at Versailles begun in 1730 and completed in 1762—that Tocqué's sketch should be dated about 1745–50, but that it was nevertheless the basis for the 1762 portrait.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 371, ill.
Xavier Salmon. Jean-Marc Nattier, 1685–1766. Exh. cat., Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon. Paris, 1999, pp. 120, 122, ill., re-affirms that Tocqué used this study as the source for his 1762 portrait.
François Marandet. "On the Provenance of Louis Tocqué's Sketch of Jean Marc Nattier." Metropolitan Museum Journal 48 (2013), pp. 199–203, fig. 1 (color), identifies it as the work mentioned in both the will and the posthumous inventory of Tocqué's widow, both dated 1775, in the former of which she bequeathed it to her sister Charlotte Claudine Nattier Brochier; suggests that a work included in Tocqué's own posthumous inventory of 1772 may also be identified with the MMA painting.
François Marandet. "Review of 'Académie Royale: A History in Portraits,' by Hannah Williams, 2015." Burlington Magazine 159 (November 2017), p. 918, mistakenly refers to this sketch rather than to the 1762 portrait in Copenhagen.
Neil Jeffares. Minutiae at the Met. March 29, 2019, unpaginated [https://neiljeffares.wordpress.com/2019/03/29/minutiae-at-the-met/].
Katharine Baetjer. French Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Early Eighteenth Century through the Revolution. New York, 2019, pp. 118–22, no. 30, ill. (color).
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