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Jean-Marc Nattier, Manon Balletti

Key facts
Full title Manon Balletti
Artist Jean-Marc Nattier
Artist dates 1685 - 1766
Date made 1757
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 54 × 47.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Emilie Yznaga, 1945
Inventory number NG5586
Location Room 33
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Manon Balletti
Jean-Marc Nattier

Maria Maddalena Balletti, known as Manon Balletti, was the daughter of Antonio Giuseppe Balletti, an actor in the Comédie Italienne. Her brother Stefano, also an actor, was friends with the Venetian adventurer and author Giacomo Casanova, who declared his love for Manon. She broke off her existing engagement to her music teacher for Casanova, but after a three-year on-off courtship gave up waiting for marriage and wed M. Blondel, the king’s architect, in 1760.

Casanova knew Nattier and may have commissioned this pastel portrait of Manon. She wears two violas in her hair or attached to her veil. In the language of flowers violas or pansies mean ‘thoughts of the beloved’. The rose she wears on her breast is associated with love. It may also refer to Manon’s mother, who was called Rosa.

Several other portraits by Nattier resemble this one. Repetition allowed him to produce portraits quickly and cheaply.

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