NATTIER, Jean-Marc
(b. 1685, Paris, d. 1766, Paris)

Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson

Oil on canvas, 138 x 105 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson (1702-1744) was the scion of a family of well-to-do cloth merchants from the southern French city of Montpellier. He served as an officer in the French royal army until the death of his father in 1726. He was a polymath who prided himself on his knowledge of literature, music, and the sciences. He died unexpectedly on July 26, 1744.

Nattier began Bonnier's portrait in early 1744, the year of the sitter's death; he signed and dated the canvas the following year. The portrait has few rivals in French portraiture of the time, not only for the elegance of its composition and the refinement of its colouring, but also for its vivid delineation of character.