Filled with an elegance inherited from Watteau - of which Natoire here stages one of the motifs being the gallant figure supporting the cavalier - the characters from our compositions meander in a dreamy vegetation, the result of a sensitive observation by an artist still mesmerized by Italy which he had recently left.
With this series of canvases directly painted for the King of France at Fontainebleau, Charles-Joseph Natoire (1700 - 1777) indeed presents one of the masterpieces in his full maturity as an artist, as well as a true segment of flourishing painting during the 18th century.
Nattoire arrived in Paris at Francois Lemoyne’s studio around 1720  and quickly distinguished himself through his brilliant ability to assimilate different techniques. From his master, he inherited this beautiful grand style of painting which he had exhibited only faint echoes of in his distant Languedoc. His town of Nimes and his religious rifts were not conducive to the development of a young artist. His first successes were thus collaborative works with Lemoyne and unveiled artworks full of a generous and ample palette and a Baroque finishing , while already leaving suggestions here and there of a more fleshy voluptuousness expected from a contemporary of Boucher. His paintings then progressed and naturally continued to be nourished by various influences that spanned his life as an enlightened, open-minded, and curious painter of his time. Victor of the Grand Prix de Rome in 1721, he nevertheless won his trip to Italy perhaps more for his promising personality, than for his sole and previous honourable distinction in the competition. During the Regency, the award did not guarantee the journey, and the Duke d’Antin, then Superintendent of the King’s Buildings, decided on what qualities in the winner merited the trip to Rome. The Duke wrote of our young painter, aged twenty-three, that he represented “what was best and most hopeful in our Academies”. His intuition was good because the young artist transformed his stay into constant sources of renewed inspiration.
In Rome, he was an assiduous sketcher, deceiving the preconceived idea that Natoire would above all be a colourist and not a talented craftsman with the pencil. He studied and copied Antiquity and the Renaissance masters, but primarily, ahead of Robert Hubert, he devoted great care to landscape depictions of the Italian countryside. He was also a fervent admirer of the work of the Italian painter Pier Leone Ghezzi (1674-1755), who also represented daily Italian life in magnificent landscapes, following the example of Thomas Gainsborough who, a contemporary.
On his return to France, the young Natoire’s reputation, still exuding all the best of Italy, paved the way for a fine career at the Academy and with Royal patronage. It was Natoire who was appointed to enhance the atmosphere of the building of Fontainebleau, deemed too vast. For his hunting trips, Louis XV set aside for himself a small and a large dining room overlooking the garden of Diana and entrusted the best artists to produce the decor. With his previous commissions for the Soubise townhouse, Natoire had beforehand become accustomed, in his own words, “to creep on doors” . Alongside Boucher and Lancret he decorated the small dining room in 1737, and along with van Loo and Jean-Francois de Troy worked on the large dining room. Originally integrated into the arched woodwork, curved on the top and with sidings on the lower part (Figure 1), Natoire’s paintings were later moved during the rearrangements made by the King in 1749, transforming the rooms into a guest’s study (fig 2). According to the art historian Susana Caviglia- Brunel, during that time signatures and dates were added, although by someone other than the artist, in order to unify the set.
Inventoried by the Revolutionaries and later dispersed, Natoire’s paintings left the Royal domain to find themselves in prestigious collections, such as that of the great historian and curator at the Louvre, Vivan-Denon, himself a great admirer of Italy which he knew well, having served as ambassador to the country. Today, in an Italian collection of refined aesthetes, Natoire’s works continue to recall this diversified creation, converging Italian views and French gallant scenes.
 The same type of scene can be found in Watteau’s painting, Rendez-vous de chasse, London, Wallace collection, inv. P 416.2
 The exact date of his arrival at Lemoyne’s studio in unknown, but was shortly before he received the Prix de Rome in 1721, consult S. Caviglia-Brunel, Charles-Joseph Natoire 1700 – 1777, Paris, 2012, p. 18.
 Also note the work currently housed inside the town hall of Arles, The Healing of the Blind, finished by Natoire, shortly after his master, Leymone’s suicide, as a final tribute.
 Letter from Duke d’Antin to the King’s first painter, Louis de Boullogne the younger, 12 October 1723.