Donatien Nonnotte (1708-1785)
Signed and dated "D. Nonnotte, 177[.]"
Provenance:Private Collection, Lyon
95,5 x 127,5 cm
120 x 150 cm (with frame)
Donat or Donatien Nonnotte, painter to the King, was born in Besançon on January 10th, 1708. He began his apprenticeship with his uncle Jean Nonnotte. In 1728 he arrived in Paris where he became François Lemoyne's favorite pupil and collaborator. He assisted the master in particular for the ceiling of the Salon d'Hercule in Versailles between 1730 and 1732. He also participated in the decorations of the churches of Saint-Sulpice and Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin in Paris and tried his hand at History painting. He found himself an influential protector in the person of the Duc d’Antin, Surintendant des Bâtiments du Roi, who promised him a place at Rome School. However the duc’s death compromises his expectations.
With Lemoyne’s demise in 1737, his low income pushed him towards the more lucrative career of portrait painter thanks to which he obtains the recognition from his peers. In 1740, he applied to join the Académie royale de peinture et sculpture. Nicolas de Largillière, then director, asked him to paint the portraits of Sébastien Leclerc and Pierre Dulin, former teachers of the Academy. The success of these two portraits enabled him to be admitted to the institution the following year. He exhibited there regularly until he left for Lyon in 1754 where he became a member of the Académie des Sciences, Belles Lettres et Arts, opened a free drawing school at his expense and portrayed the local nobility and high bourgeoisie. He died there on February 4th, 1785.
Léonard Bourlier d'Ailly, Seigneur of Parigny, Saint-Cyr-de-Favières, Commelle, Saligny, Conseiller en la Cour des Monnaies, was born in 1733 in Lyon. He came from a newly ennobled Robe family (1719). He married on April 20, 1762 to Antoinette Bouvier (born in 1741) of whom he had a daughter, Victoire-Joseph, born on January 31, 1769. He was guillotined as a counter-revolutionary in Lyon on December 8th, 1793.
Beyond a simple portrait of a couple from the provincial nobility of the Robe seeking to immortalize their success, their taste or their status, it may also be interesting to see in this representation the announcement of a desired or future maternity. Several symbolic clues are offered to us such as the open drawer with the fabric evoking the swaddling clothes of a newborn, as well as the Sèvres biscuit figure from a model by Etienne-Maurice Falconet called "La Fille au Nid" (dating from 1764-66), where a child contemplates the nest she is holding and in which a bird is brooding.