The Heir Apparent with His Family by Pierre Mignard (1687) is the only XVII century portrait that still decorates the walls of the Big Trianon. The picture is a perfect example of what the theory of the day understood as grace. Grace is a feature of the mannerist baroque; it opposes the previous realist phase: in the first half of the XVII century baroque realism dominated the canvass; but by the late 1700’s the ripping off the mask was no longer fashionable in portraiture: at Versailles nonchalance replaced gravity of whatever insight; for Versailles was not so much a seat of power, as its tool; and the art of dissimulation here was far more valuable than psychology; and so, by the end of the century the courtly choreography with its grace took over. This quality was treated as innate, and together with the art of conversation defined the courtier. The court painter was also expected to demonstrate some comparable talent. It would be vulgar to understand the attribute we discuss as a mark of inauthenticity, since the truthfulness of a realist brush is in equal measure formulaic; of course, we all agree that truth in painting is not the same as in the court of law; but even there what is truth if not the meanest, nastiest of all lies.
(The boy on a cushion, in the center, is the future Philip V of Spain; the boy on the right is the future father of Louis XV.)