The French painter Nicolas Lancret was born on January 22, 1690 in Paris. Even though a career as a copperplate engraver – like his brother François Joseph – was planned for him, he was able to have his way and be an apprentice to the historical painter Pierre Dulin (1669–1749). Starting in 1708, Nicolas Lancret participated in drawing courses at the academy. But he also turned away from historical painting and took up the genre of the "fêtes galantes". Around 1712, he becomes a student of Claude Gillot (1673–1722). In the latter’s studio, the artist encounters Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), who advised him to leave behind Gillot‘s style and draw based on the natural world in the surroundings of Paris. However, his friendship with Watteau later ended. In 1718, the Royal Academy in Paris accepted Lancret as an Agréé and as a member in 1719.
After the death of the two masters Watteau and Gillot, Nicolas Lancret – in addition to Jean-Baptiste Pater (1695–1736), who had also previously been Watteau‘s student – dominated the field of the "fêtes galantes" and the comic-actor scenes. With the works "Lit de justice tenu au Parlement à la majorité du Roi" (1723) and "Diana and Callisto", the artist attempted the more highly esteemed historical field a few more times. However, his success was based on the Watteau genre, in which he was inundated with commissions. Among others, he had orders from Jean-François Lériget de la Faye (1674–1731), Jacques Louis de Béringhen, Pierre Crozat (1661 or 1665–1740), Cte de Tessin, Madeleine de Boullongne (1646–1710), Prince Carignan, and from the court. Frederick the Great (1712–86) also purchased Nicolas Lancret’s works in 1739 for Rheinsberg.
The artist frequently prepared his paintings through numerous sketches, studies, and drafts, often painting more or less free repetitions of his pictures. Lancret showed himself in his works as a skillful storyteller and sharp observer of the pleasure-loving high-society world that presented itself elegantly, tastefully, and in the colorful costumes of Italian comedy. He was a friend of the theater and created flattering portraits of actresses and dancers.
Nicolas Lancret died on September 14, 1745 in Paris.