Jean-Marc Nattier (Paris, 1685 - 1766) and his workshop
Portrait of Charlotte de Hesse-Rheinfels
Oil on canvas : h. 44.09 in, w. 38.19 in
18th century carved giltwood framed
Framed : h. 52.36 in, w. 47.63 in
Charlotte de Hesse-Rheinfels (1714-1741), daughter of Landgrave Ernest-Léopold de Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg and Éléonore de Lowenstein-Wertheim and Kazazyan, was Princess of Condé by her marriage in 1728 to Duke Louis-Henri de Bourbon-Condé known as Monsieur le Duc.
The princess is portrayed seated on a canopy of gilded wood trimmed with raspberry red velvet, the body positioned facing forward while the face is turned three-quarters to the left. The face with a thoughtful and thoughtful gaze is awakened by its large gray eyes, the translucent skin with painted cheeks accentuates the effect of a melted execution of the model. Her powdered and tied hair is adorned with an orange veil which goes down on her shoulders. The separation fades between the powdered hair and the face. Dressed in a golden yellow satin dress embellished with multiple rows of white and black lace flounces at the bodice and sleeves, the neckline of her dress reveals her bare throat. The ermine coat lined with blue velvet is placed behind his shoulders, the sides of the coat come back to the front and are arranged in angular folds on his knees. With her right hand, arm bent at the elbow, she caresses her little dog, while the left arm resting on the armrest of the armchair is extended and the index finger of her open hand points to the right. The positions of the arms and the head generate an illusion of diagonal movement allowing to break the static character of portrait. This stretching of the arms horizontally is characteristic of Nattier's works, the figure thus grows in size in the painting by occupying a larger place there. This process carried out by highlighting the elegance of refined gestures increases the natural grace of the young woman. The sober architectural background is composed of a column draped with a green curtain and flattened pilasters with Ionian capitals. The light coming from the right partially illuminates the figure, leaving the left part in shadow. Illuminated, the young woman's dress reflects golden reflections in warm orange tones, while the velvet of the coat broken into angular folds reveals its surface through icy white ridges. This opposition only accentuates the volumes and textures of the fabrics. The facial features under a subtle effect of blurred appear more softened while the pearly white complexions seem illuminated with an inner radiance.
Our work is a variant of the painting executed by Jean Marc Nattier, kept at the Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Signed and dated, but the illegible date makes it impossible to establish a precise dating.
In our version, the dress with a lace corset is preferred to the negligee of the Buenos Aires version, the console is absent. The little dog with the red bow is added on the knees.
The Condés are the first blood princes among Jean Marc Nattier's clients. He began to work in 1729 for the sisters of Louis Henri de Bourbon, Mlle de Clermont and subsequently painted the portrait of Mlle de Charolais in 1731. It is very likely that it was during this period, delighted by the quality of the portraits of his sisters, that the Prince of Condé commissioned the portrait of his wife Charlotte from Nattier. Requested in the 1740s by the royal family, Jean Marc Nattier returned to paint the Condés again in 1753 & 1754.
There are no traces of the signed portrait of Buenos Aires in the inventories of the Condé family. Its known provenance dates back only to the middle of the 20th century.
Regarding our portrait, it appeared in 1905 in Paris in a public sale auction during the dispersal of the collection of the account of R… without further indications on its internal provenance. Undoubtedly remaining on the Parisian art market, the painting was purchased in the 1930s by a wealthy English industrialist for his Monegasque residence and is remained in his posterity until nowdays.
Jean-Marc Nattier (Paris, 1685 - 1766)
Son of a portrait painter and pupil of Rigaud, Nattier began his career as a history painter under the influence of Charles Le Brun and under the tutelage of his godfather, Jean Jouvenet . During a stay in Holland, he was approached to work for Tsar Peter the Great. In 1718, he was received into the Academy. His style is then that of the great French tradition. He uses the resources of the architectural setting and the grandiloquent expression of the characters; its chromaticism is frank. But Nattier does not know success; his ruin at the time of Law's bankruptcy forced him to turn to the more lucrative genre of portraiture. In 1728, he painted the Marshal of Saxe to order and enjoyed a certain favor from then on. It is, at more than forty years, the beginning of a new career which asserts itself with the Portrait of Mlle de Clermont taking the waters (1729). By the choice of subject as by the pictorial means, he established a new way of presenting the portrait, in which the high society of the middle of the 18th century wanted to recognize itself, which had the favor of the great amateurs of the 19th century . century. Elegance of the pose, freshness and clarity of the color, fantasy of the rendering of the accessories add to the serene and joyful expression of the female faces. Superficial works, but pleasing to the eye. The type of mythological portrait is now adopted by the ladies of the aristocracy and Nattier knows Parisian success for a dozen years. Later, received at court, he became the portrait painter of the royal family. The famous series of portraits of the daughters of Louis XV is part of an effort to recreate the portrait by integrating a topical image into the poetic world of Olympus. Nattier thus joins the paths of history painting, speculative and synthetic: the universe recreated in the portraits (such as that of Madame Henriette in Flore) joins the noble data of the allegory.