Nattier and the intimate portrait of Marie Leszczynska

Nattier and the intimate portrait of Marie Leszczynska

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Title: Marie Leszczynska, represented in 1748 in town dress

Author : NATTIER Jean-Marc (1685 - 1766)

Creation date : 1748

Date shown: 1748

Dimensions: Height 146 - Width 113

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas, full title: Marie Leszczynska, queen of France (1703-1768), represented in 1748 in town dress, wearing a lace marmot and reading the Gospels.

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Gérard Blot

Picture reference: 07-506243 / MV8543

Marie Leszczynska, represented in 1748 in town dress

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Gérard Blot

Publication date: December 2013

Historical context

Marie-Charlotte-Sophie-Félicité Leszczynska is the daughter of the dethroned king of Poland, Stanislas Leszczynski. Born in 1703, she was married in 1725 to Louis XV, then aged fifteen, in Strasbourg. Indeed, Louis XV is the last of the descendants of Louis XIV, after the deaths of the Grand Dauphin, the Petit Dauphin (his father), his mother and his two older brothers. Previous engagements with the too young daughter of Philip V of Spain, Marie-Anne Victoire, are broken off in order to avoid leaving the throne without descendants.

Polyglot and protector of the arts (she painted equally throughout her life and surrounded herself with the greatest painters of her time), the young queen happily lived her first years in Versailles, although she was kept away from power. Politics. Loved by Louis XV, she gave birth to ten children, six of whom died young. The impossibility for the queen to continue giving birth, as well as the deceptions of Louis XV, engender weariness within the couple. In 1748, she was forty-five years old; For a few years now, religion has taken an important place in her daily life and she likes to surround herself with a small but loyal circle of friends.

Image Analysis

The painting was commissioned by the queen herself in 1748, along with two copies (one for the Comte de Maurepas and the other for the Comte de Pâris-Duvernay). The queen expressly asks to be represented not in formal dress, but in "town dress".

Dressed in a red dress embroidered with ermine and enhanced by lace cuffs, Marie Leszczynska is seated in an armchair whose fabric embroidered with fleur-de-lis discreetly recalls the status of the model. The queen wears a white lace cap held up by a black lace mantilla, a symbol of domestic felicity foreign to a ceremonial portrait. The artist seems to take with this accessory and the color of the dress elements that he had already used in the portrait of ’Ulrika Lovisa Sparre, Countess Tessin in 1741 (Louvre museum). The regalia usual elements, essential elements for a portrait of a queen, are not present. Only the blue drapery stretched behind the queen lends a certain majesty to the background, punctuated by Doric pilasters; other discreet objects, such as jewelry (earrings, necklace in precious stones adorned with a miniature representing Saint John of Nepomuk, the favorite saint of the queen), bring elegance and grace to the model. Marie Leszczynska seems to have been drawn from her reading of the Gospels by the arrival of one of her relatives; the smile that she sketches at his approach determines a certain intimacy and reveals the portrait of a charming woman.


The last painting for which Marie Leszczynska agreed to pose and which was presented at the Salon of 1748, the work received enthusiastic critics both for the resemblance of the portrait and for the "noble simplicity" which emanates from the figure.

This painting delivers a more human and more intimate face of royalty, which corresponds deeply to the personality of the queen and her way of life. Having respected court protocol all his life, the king granted him more freedoms from the end of the 1740s. It is therefore a daily scene that Nattier chooses to represent in this painting. Indeed, it contrasts radically with the official portraits made by Louis Tocqué in 1740 (Louvre museum) and Carle Van Loo in 1747 (National museum of the châteaux of Versailles and the Trianon). The pastel portrait of the queen by Maurice Quentin de la Tour (Louvre museum), presented at the same Salon, is also a great success for the same reasons.

The large number of copies from Nattier's studio, during the queen's lifetime but also posthumously, unambiguously demonstrates the painting's power of seduction as well as the queen's unwavering popularity. Distributed by engraving from 1755, the portrait lost its intimate function to achieve iconic status as the last portrait of Marie Leszczynska.

  • Louis XV
  • portrait
  • Leszczynska (Marie)
  • royal bride


Xavier SALMON (dir.), Jean-Marc Nattier. 1685-1766, catalog of the exhibition at the Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon (October 26, 1999 - January 30, 2000), Paris, R.M.N., 1999.

Xavier SALMON (dir.), Speak to soul and heart. Painting according to Marie Leszczynska, catalog of the exhibition at the Musée du Château de Fontainebleau (June 18-September 19, 2011), Fontainebleau-Dijon, Musée national du château de Fontainebleau-Faton, 2011.

To cite this article

Saskia HANSELAAR, "Nattier and the intimate portrait of Marie Leszczynska"

Video: Louis XVs and Marias children