Manon Balletti was the daughter of an actress in the Comédie Italienne and became engaged to adventurer and author Giacomo Casanova at about the time the portrait was painted. She broke off her engagement to her music teacher for Casanova, but after three years she gave up waiting for marriage and wed M. Blondel, the king’s architect, in 1760.
In contrast to many of his court portraits, Nattier's representation of Manon Balletti is remarkable for its apparent simplicity. She wears two violas in her hair or attached to her veil. In the language of flowers, violas mean ‘thoughts of the beloved’. The rose she wears on her breast is associated with love, but may also refer to Manon’s mother, who was called Rosa.
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