Diane de Versailles Paris Art News

Chateau de Versailles

With the occasion of the Diane de Versailles Exhibition
 Paris Art News has found in its treasure vault

 Madame Adelaide of France as Diane

"2 Tableaux d'Ambassade"

by the studio of
Jean Marc NATTIER,  (1685-1766)

Verssailles Paris Art News

Chambre de la Dauphine

Madame Adelaide of France, (1732-1799), as Diane in Versailles
(The corresponding Tableaux d' Ambassade is in a private collection)
Madame Adelaide of France as
                  Diane Versailles

Portrait of Madame Adelaide as Diane 

The sitter is painted at thirteen years of age in the allegorical role of Diane, a roman Goddess of the Hunt. The princess is seen full figure in a half-reclined pose. She is holding a golden bow with one hand whilst the other plucks an arrow from an elegant blue-painted quiver. She wears a classical white gown with a short ruched sleeve leaving one breast completely exposed. A leopard skin crosses her torso and a red silk wrap is draped about her (to balance the blue of the wrap in the other painting of this pair). She wears Roman sandals and her hair is worn in the powdered fashion of the time, caught in a "Nattier blue" ribbon with a moon crescent piece crowning her forehead.
The figure is positioned to the left foreground of a landscape setting and rests against the remains of a stone ruin in a romantic forest grotto. The positioning of this figure to the lefthand side of the canvas compliments the positioning of the other figure to the right in the pendant portrait.
The nipple and flesh of the exposed breast together with the left eye, have been interfered with in the same crude manner as Henriette's face.

Provenance : The early provenance remains undocumented though due to other existing replicas and contemporary records, we know that numerous commissions were given to Nattier for portraits of the daughters of Louis XV. We learn from letters addressed from the princesses to Charles Coypel, first painter to the king, that these particular allegorical portraits were favourite subjects and in high demand. In a letter to Coypel dated Versailles, 9 december, 1751, M. de Vandieres writes on behalf of the royal ladies <<Madame Henriette, Madame Adelaide et Madame Victoire, Monsieur, veulent des copies de leurs portraits d'apres l'original de M. Nattier>>. To ease the workload of Monsieur Nattier, his brother-in-law Monsieur de la Roche, as well as official court painters such as Coqueret, Prevost, Frey and Hellart helped in producing the replica portraits.  In most cases, Nattier was obliged to paint the faces whilst the rest of the canvas was left to other court painters.
So we can safely assume that the present pair originated as a commission from a member of the royal family and that most likely, they were ordered by King Louis XV along with the other known replicas as portraits d'ambassade, destined for gifts to foreign courts. The most appropriate term for the early provenance of these replicas being Cabinet du Roi.  

The paintings were relined in the 19th Century
but have never been cleaned 

Madame Henriette of France, (1727-1752) as Flora in Versailles
(The corresponding Tableaux d' Ambassade is in a private collection)

Madame Henriette of
                    France, (1727-1752) as Flora Versialles 

The original is dated 1742 which makes the sitter 15 years of age, although it has been commented upon that her appearance suggests a more mature model. The favourite daughter of Louis XV of France, Henriette is portrayed as the roman goddess Flora. She is pictured full figure in a half-reclined pose. Elegantly arranged on a grassy incline, the princess leans against a rock and gazes out at the viewer. A stream passes by in front of her and the hem of her gown dangles in the water. The background consists of a a rural landscape with a chateau in the far distance to indicate the sitter's noble birth. The princess plaits a wreath of flowers and wears blooms in her hair which is coiffed in the powdered fashion of the day. 

1 de Nolhac, P., Nattier Peintre de la cour de Louis XV, Paris 1925, p. 148.
 The princess is seen in a state of deshabille wearing a loose classical white gown that bares her shoulders, a blue silk wrap and roman sandals on her bare feet. 
The scene is rear-lit with a dramatically streaked sky that creates a suitably poetic ambiance.
Unfortunately at some time in the past, the face has suffered an appalling repaint to the eyes, particularly the right eye. Under ultra-violet examination, the repaint shows up as bright pink and is perhaps executed with a media other than oil paint, possibly modern medium which would fit with the likelihood of the painting being tampered by a previous owner. The paintings were relined in the 19th Century
but have never been cleaned. The original paint layer does not seem damaged underneath as no paint loss is evident and the problem could be rectified with professional attention. It should be noted that the eyes of Adelaide also have been interfered with in the same manner.
There are areas on the canvas where the red ground shows through and this gives some idea of the thin fluidity of the paint layer. By contrast, the flowers and foliage are expertly rendered with thick impasto and seem to be by a different hand. This would be compatible with the idea of many different artists participating in the execution of Nattier's replicas, especially if we consider that one such artist, a Monsieur Prevost, was a specialist in painting flowers. 
There are minor paint losses to both canvases, particularly around the edges and cusping is evident, suggesting that the canvas is of its original dimensions. A thick layer of discoloured varnish and dirt obscures the works and makes critical analysis difficult.

Chambre de la Dauphine in Versailles

In Versailles

Lit a la polonaise en bois sculpte et dore, estampille par Nicolas Heurtaut, provenant du château de la Tour.
Il serait un présent de Louis XV a la marquise de Serain.
Don du Comte Guy du Boisrouvray et de sa fille Albina du Boisrouvray en 1962.

Albina du Boisrouvray Chevalier des
                      Arts et des Lettres with Raichel Le Goff
Contesse Albina du Boisrouvray Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres with Dr. Raichel Le Goff & family

*     *     *

"2 Tableaux d'Ambassade"

Madame Adelaide of France & Madame Henriette of France

by the studio of
Jean Marc NATTIER,  (1685-1766)

 Now in a private collection
Provodanse: galerie Charpentier Paris

The paintings are available for acquisition.
For information email to this website.

*     *     *


Madame Tocque, a contemporary, tells us about two pictures painted in 1740 which represented the daughters of the Marquise of Nesle :

<<these two paintings which are pure masterpieces of Monsieur Nattier made so much noise at the court of the king that they excited the curiosity of the Queen who having seen them, was so struck by the perfect resemblance to the subjects portrayed that she ordered Monsieur Nattier on the spot to commence the portrait of Madame Henriette. He painted this princess, plaiting a wreath of flowers, in full figure. This work is above the mantelpiece of the Queen's own chamber.>>

The "pupil of the Graces", as Nattier was known, was summoned to Versailles to paint Henriette as Flora. This work was ordered in 1742 by Mgr. Orry, State Minister, General Controller of Finance, Director and Co-ordinator of the King's buildings :

<<The said painting is to be 5 pieds, 2 pouces long by 4 pieds high. It is to represent the young person lying on the grass by a stream amusing herself by plaiting a wreath of flowers on a rich scenic background. The head after Madame, according to the orders of the Queen for the sum of 3,000 livres.>>

The picture delighted the royal family and was the start of Nattier's fame as a painter to royalty. It inspired the King to command a replica, together with a pendant portrait depicting his younger daughter Adelaide. Nattier made the following entry in his book: 

<<delivered in the month of September 1745 a copy of the portrait of Madame (Henriette) of which the original is in the Queen's quarters of Versailles. The portrait is "chantourne" of 5 pieds long and 3 pieds, 4 pouces high. It represents a nymph reclining in a meadow playing at plaiting a wreath of flowers. The background of the painting is a landscape : 400 livres. Having painting Madame Adelaide as Dianne in the woods holding a bow and quiver of arrows. The background of this painting is a forest across which one can see a beautiful countryscape. This painting is of the same dimensions as of Madame (Henriette) and they are both placed in the bedroom of the King at Choissy. On 12th September of the present year : 1,500 livres. Plus, during the last trip to Fontainebleau two copies of the princesses for Madame the Infanta. "These two copies entirely made by Monsieur Nattier", this is the condition made by Madame the Duchess of Tallard. These are about the same size as the originals, i.e. 4 pieds long by 3 pieds high : 600 livres.>>

The King commanded reproductions to be sent to his eldest daughter Madame the Infanta who had married in 1739 the Infant Don Philippe of Spain, these are now in the Uffizi (signed Nattier pinxit and dated 1745). It is this pair which the present paintings most closely resemble.
In their current state of conservation, it is difficult to comment fairly on the quality of the paintings but naturally, the quality in the execution of what were perhaps the fifth or sixth studio replica has diminished, as Nattier moved on to fresh commissions and left the work largely to assistants. This would explain the ommission of certain time-consuming background details, such as the small waterfall to the right and the large plant that frames the picture on the left and an overall hastiness with the rendering of sky and landscape. Instead, the artist has concentrated on imitating perfectly the figure and its associated details of costume and floral arrangement. The pearls just discernible at the waist of Henriette are faithfully reproduced as are the flowers, matched bloom for bloom, leaf for leaf. 
However, the refinement of technique as seen in Adelaide's portrait, with the expressive warm brown eyes, subtle inclination of the eyebrows and the adolescent softness of the flesh, would seem to belong wholly to Nattier. All factors indicate that Henriette shares in this same delicacy of technique behind the present disfiguration.
At least five other replicas are extant, with a further pair, unsigned and undated discovered by Studio Veritas in a sale catalogue of the Gallerie Charpentier which had been censored for export to a prudish foreign court as the breast of Adelaide was concealed by her blouse and the neckline of Henriette had been raised considerably to cover her shoulders. 

Preparatory Drawings :

Musee de Bordeaux, Study for the head of Madame Henriette.
Studies for both compositions appeared in the sale of the collection of the Vicomte de Vaudreuil, 1784.

Replicas :

Uffizi, Florence (94.5 x 128.5cm Adelaide) and (95 x 128cm Henriette) 
Madrid Palazzo Reale
Chateau de Ferrieres, France (Nolhac)
Collection Baron Alphonse de Rothschild
Musee Niort, France (96.5 x 124cm Adelaide)
Musee des Beaux Arts Orleans, France (82 x 129 Henriette)
Paris 15th May, 1941, sale of Mme.P..., ("Mme Adelaide en Diane"), 63,000 F.(Benezit) 

Auction house: 
Gallerie Charpentier, Paris, 7 & 8 Dec. 1954, Lot no. 77 & 78,
(92 x 135 Adelaide) and (92 x 135 Henriette)

Gavard, Volume 12, 1838, pl.2598, engraving Monnin.
Hedouin, "Mosaic : Paintings, Musicians, etc." 1856, p. 133.
Palissot de Montenoy : (see Nattier) A Catalogue of deceased artists and curiosities - Universal Revue of the Arts, 1860, p.122.
Soulie, volume 3, 1861, no. 3818.
Mantz, A Paper on Nattier, Gazette B.A., 1894, t.1, p. 437.
Nolhac, Nattier, Painter of Ladies, Gazette B.A., June 1895, p. 460 reproduction.
Nolhac et Perate, 1896, p. 189-196.
Engerand, Inventory, 1709-1792 or "Orders", 1900. p.327-331
Nolhac: Nattier, Painter to the Court of Louis XV, 1910, p. 103-109, 112-232.
Nolhac, Nattier, Painter to the Court of Louis XV, 1925. pl. 1, repro.
Reau, History of Painting in France of the 18th Century, volume 1, 1925, p.67 repor. pl. III, IV.
Briere, Rectifications...Soulie, B.S.H.S.A.F., 1911, p.394, no. 131.
Reau, Nattier, Paintings, 1914, p.62.
Limier, French Paintings fo the 18th Century, volume 11, 1930, p.106-120, no.17.
Nolhac, Thirty Years of Versailles, Review of Demi-mondes, 1935, p. 828.
Florisoone, The Eighteenth Century, 1948, repro. p.74.
Catalogue, exposition at the Orangerie : T
he French Portrait from Watteau to David, p. 52, no,57.
Benezit, volume VI, 1953, p. 315.

Raichel Le Goff - Nattier Flora

Documented by the Art historian Dr. Raichel le Goff

N.B. Photos of the two paintings for sale: Tableaux d'Ambassade are available only upon request

Art historian Dr. Raichel Le Goff in Versailles

Dr. Raichel Le Goff in Verssailles

Raichel Le Goff in

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