|Behind the duc are arrayed the robes and accoutrements of the Order of the Saint-Esprit, the senior chivalric order of royal France.|
Louis-François-Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, duc de Richelieu (13 March 1696, Paris – 8 August 1788, Paris), French soldier and diplomat, he participated in three major wars, eventually rising to the rank of Marshal of France, and was for a time French ambassador to the Imperial court in Vienna. A godson of Louis XIV, he was a close friend of Louis XV. His favor at court waned when he opposed the marquise de Pompadour, and was restored at her death and the rise of du Barry. But his intriguing nature and very unsavory reputation made him far from welcome at the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. For he is best known, then and now, for his rampant, indiscreet womanizing. Married three times - his final marriage was consecrated when he was eighty-four - and his extramarital conquests were reckless and innumerable; it is said that the famous character Valmont in Choderlos de Laclos' Les Liaisons dangereuses was based on the duc de Richelieu. Despite years spent in battle and in amatory excess, he managed to survive to the extraordinary age - especially for the time - of ninety-two.
|A copy after Nattier, circa 1732-42.|
Jean-Marc Nattier (17 March 1685, Paris – 7 November 1766, Paris), French painter, certainly the most important court portraitist of the eighteenth century. The child of two artists, he enrolled in the Royal Academy in 1703, with aspirations of becoming a history painter. But he found portraiture to be much more lucrative, and was successful in his chosen career from an early age. He painted numerous portraits of the French Royal family - especially the daughters of Louis XV - and the aristocracy gathered at Versailles. His style is immediately recognizable. Cool, muted. And with a particular kind of calm, even when portraying the floating, fluttering drapery of his female subjects, got up as nymphs and goddesses, one of his most characteristic devices.