Draftsman, pastellist and engraver, born in Reims in 1623, Robert Nanteuil only engraved portraits, with a very few exceptions. Appointed Ordinary Engraver to the King in 1659, he had the very rare privilege of drawing Louis XIV from life and represented him eleven times at different periods of his reign, using his own pastel work as a base for his engraving.
He was very famous at the time, and was much appreciated for his gentle and harmonious manner. “He puts a lot of feeling into his work, he acts as if he loves his models, he manages to make Colbert seem sensitive, Condé almost benevolent…” underlines Maxime Préaud in the film, with regard to this virtuoso art form, based on “the union and tenderness of the works”.
As a counterpoint to these early creations, two contemporary artists, Marie-Ange Barbet and Étienne Lodého, work directly in front of the camera to create two portraits of Joseph de Colbert, one in pastel and the other engraved.