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
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
<<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
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
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
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
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
Preparatory Drawings :
Musee de Bordeaux, Study for the head of Madame
Studies for both compositions appeared in the sale of
the collection of the Vicomte de Vaudreuil, 1784.
Uffizi, Florence (94.5 x 128.5cm Adelaide) and (95 x
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
Paris 15th May, 1941, sale of Mme.P..., ("Mme Adelaide
en Diane"), 63,000 F.(Benezit)
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,
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.
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.
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,
Benezit, volume VI, 1953, p. 315.
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
historian Dr. Raichel Le Goff in Versailles