Portrait of Manon Balletti, 1757, by Jean-Marc Nattier (1685–1766)
The beautiful Manon was a lover and fiancee to the famous Giacomo Casanova, which began while Casanova was in his thirties, and Manon just seventeen.
She was very much in love with Casanova, having broke off a previous engagement to another man to be with him. She sent him many love letters and suffered through his many cases of infidelity in the hopes he would change his ways for her. This, however, never happened, and she could not stand his unfaithfulness any longer. She later married another man before dying in her thirties. Casanova harboured some guilt over her death due to the way he treated her. He had hoped one day they could settle down together, but he believed his abuse to her caused her stress that helped shorten her life.
Manon Balletti (1757). Jean-Marc Nattier (French, 1685-1766). Oil on canvas. The National Gallery.
The sitter (1740-1776) was the daughter of an actress in the Comédie Italienne company, and became engaged to Casanova at age 17. In 1760 she married a more reputable though older suitor, the architect Jacques-François Blondel. Nattier’s representation is remarkable for its apparent simplicity. Liveliness is conveyed by the slight turn of the head and the attraction of the sitter emphasised by the rose pinned to her dress.