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A royal Nocret at the gallery

The F. Baulme Fine Arts gallery is presenting an exceptional painting by Jean Nocret, portraying the future Queen of Spain Marie-Louise d'Orléans (1662-1689), daughter of Monsieur, brother of Louis XIV, and Henriette of England. The work is included in the artist's catalogue raisonné written by Élodie Vaysse, curator at the Château de Versailles (P.27). The magazine "Le Point" of 27 June 2024 reviews this new painting, and the wealth of news relating to Nocret, between the discovery of works, publications and restoration.

An emblematic painter of the Grand Siècle, Jean Nocret was the portraitist of the court of Louis XIV. After training in Rome, where he was close to Nicolas Poussin, he returned to Paris, where around 1649 he became the king's painter and, along with Pierre Mignard, the official artist of Philippe d'Orléans, the king's brother. Although today Nocret is best known for his portraits, such as his recently restored masterpiece La Famille royale dans l'Olympe (1670, Versailles, Château), he was also a great historical painter and decorator. In the 1660s, he decorated the flats of Henriette of England, wife of Monsieur and mother of Marie-Louise, at the Château de Saint-Cloud, then the queen's flats at the Palais des Tuileries (no longer in existence). At the same time, Nocret had been a member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture since 1663, where he gave lectures on Veronese and Raphael. He was subsequently promoted to professor and then rector, testifying to his importance in the artistic landscape of his time.

Our painting features Marie-Louise d'Orléans, identifiable by the little papillon dog at her side, named Mimi, who is also recognisable by her coral earrings! The sumptuous pearled crown, an attribute of the "Enfants de France" (Children of France), is a reminder of her royal rank.

Representations of Enfants de France are extremely rare. Nocret displays all his talent, playing on the effects between the princess's naked body, the velvet drape she is standing on, the portrait of the dog and the bucolic landscape that opens the composition on the left. The remarkable blue fabric, laid out like a casket for Marie-Louise, contrasts with the thinness of the veil surrounding and crowning her, sublimating her face in full light.

Marie-Louise lifts the veil with a very noble gesture, as if revealing herself to the spectator, announcing her political future due to her rank. Despite her very young age, she already embodied the monarchy. This mark of importance foreshadows the unfortunate destiny of a future queen who, raised as her own daughter by Louis XIV, was married to Charles II of Habsburg, King of Spain, known as "the Bewitched", in order to forge a lasting alliance with this neighbouring nation.

The work is characteristic of Nocret's style, with its idealisation of the face and softened contours, with lines that make the model vibrate and come to life. The softness of the princess is emphasised by the effects of the glaze, giving her finesse and brilliance. The painter's touch is invisible, melting into the paint layer, leaving not a discernible brushstroke, so as not to stand between the courtier's gaze and the princess. The composition of all his portraits is structured by the use of light, with certain elements, such as the face or the crown, clearly illuminated, so as to make the viewer's interpretation of the work more explicit.



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