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    Curated: Thalia, Muse of Comedy

    In the Legion of Honor Permanent Collection

    Although acquired as a portrait of the duchesse de Châteauroux, a mistress of Louis XV (1710–1774), Jean-Marc Nattier (1685–1766) has, in fact, personified Thalia, Muse of Comedy. She is shown with an ivy crown and dark mask. Thalia raises a heavy velour curtain on a theatrical scene.

    The charm and vivacity of the nymph is presented with Nattier’s characteristic ease and intimacy, luminous color and sweetness of facial expression, enhanced by the artifice of rouge. Perhaps conceived as an “overdoor” (a painting meant to be placed over a door frame), the work has been reframed to reveal the original curved contour of the canvas.

    Nattier achieved his reputation as the leading court portraitist of France with a skillful series of likenesses of Louis XV and his family. He evolved an innovative formula for mythological portraiture, entirely different in spirit from the genre admired in the sixteenth century.

    Excelling as a painter of women, he flattered his sitters by endowing them with the attributes of goddesses of Olympus and posing them against backdrops of classical columns, voluminous silken draperies and decorative elements. | @deyoungmuseum