Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702-1789) was born in Geneve, Switzerland, where he was trained as a miniature painter. In his twenties he sought his fortune in Paris, where he studied in a prominent painter’s studio. After rejection by the Académie Royale, he traveled to Italy, where he obtained numerous portrait commissions.
Liotard next embarked on a journey throughout the Mediterranean region and finally settled in Constantinople for four years. Intrigued by the native dress, he grew a long beard and acquired the habit of dressing as a Turk, earning himself the nickname of “the Turkish painter”. For the rest of his life, Liotard traveled throughout Europe painting portraits in pastels. In Rome 1735 he painted portraits of Pope Clement XII and several cardinals. He traveled to Vienna in 1743 to paint the portraits of Empress Maria Theresa and her family, visited England from 1753 to 1755 and painted portraits of the Princess of Wales and other notables.
His painting style intimately captured a tender and realistic representation of his subjects. Later settling in his birthplace of Geneva, he wrote “Treatise on the Art of Painting”, in which he claimed painting ought to be a mirror of nature. This strong belief is seen prominently in his portraits, but also in still-life works and landscapes he painted later in life.