Thursday, October 7, 2010

Painting of the Week: Portrait of Manon Balletti by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1757

Portrait of Manon Balletti
Jean-Marc Nattier, 1757
The National Gallery, Britain
The brilliant color of her face stands out against her powdered hair and pearl-trimmed silver gown. A rose at her bodice mimics the flower of her cheeks as she gazes at us sweetly from the Eighteenth Century.

This portrait by Jean-Marc Nattier was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1757. Nattier was one of the leading French portrait artists during the reign of Louis XV. His work is celebrated for its fine detail, the tactile look of the flesh, the liveliness of his sitters’ expressions, and his bold contrasting colors. This sumptuous painting depicts Manon Balletti—the daughter of a famed French actress. Miss Balletti was notoriously engaged to Casanova before making a smarter marriage to an older, more stable architect. Nattier’s knack for creating monumentality in his portrait by employing classical elements to his work is evident here. Manon Balletti looks like a statue come to life. She is, indeed, as lustrous as the pearls which adorn her gown.

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