We do not know the identity of this elegant young man in armour. Neither the wig nor the costume allows us to date the portrait precisely. He turns to look at us, as though glancing back for a moment, his lips slightly parted and his eyes directly meeting ours. The medal decorating his armour is that of a chevalier (knight) of the military Order of St Louis. However, too many officers were awarded that honour in the years around 1750 to be able to work out with any certainty who he might be.
The armour also appears in Nattier’s 1745–6 portraits of the baron de Besenval (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg) and the duc de Penthièvre (copy in a private collection) and was presumably a studio prop. The picture surface is covered with a thick yellowed varnish but the portrait has not been cut down.
The man’s turning pose is like that in Nattier’s 1717 portrait of Tsar Peter the Great (Bavarian Palace Department, Munich). It was used by Nattier for subsequent bust or half-length portraits of military men. It can be seen in reverse in the copy of his portrait of the baron de Besenval (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg) and that of the duc de Penthièvre (copy in a private collection), which have both been dated 1745–6. The armour in our painting resembles that in the portraits of the baron de Besenval and the duc de Penthièvre and was presumably a studio prop. The picture surface is covered with a thick yellowed varnish but the portrait has not been cut down.
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