Charles-Amédée-Philippe (“Amédée”) Van Loo, son of Jean-Baptiste Van Loo (1684-1745), was born into a dynasty of painters who were active throughout Europe for more than two centuries. He was trained in his father’s studio, and raised in Italy, southern France, and Paris, where he won the Prix de Rome in 1738. In 1748 he became Court Painter to Frederick II “the Great” in Berlin, and he stayed in Germany until 1758, when the Prussian Monarch gave him permission to return to France as long as the Seven Years war lasted. By 25 August 1763 he was again in Berlin working for Frederick and his court. After his definitive return to Paris in 1769, Amédée Van Loo continued to receive an annual pension from Frederick. He exhibited regularly in the Salons until his death.
Amédée Van Loo was deeply influenced by Dutch genre painting, especially that of Frans van Mieris, and this composition was clearly inspired by Dutch and German representations of unequal lovers. The trompe l'oeil oval surround is similar to those in the artist's pair of portraits of his six children, both signed and dated 1764, in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (F. Gage and P. Conisbee in P. Conisbee, The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue: French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, Washington, 2009, pp. 419–26, nos. 89–90, both illustrated in colour).
An x-radiograph of one reveals the presence of the figure of the man in the present painting, with his right hand raised to his chin. The close relationship between the three paintings further supports the identification of the man as the artist himself as suggested by a comparison with the Portrait of the Artist demonstrating a Vacuum Pump to his Wife and Family, painted in Paris between 1779 and 1782 (formerly with Charles Beddington Ltd, now private collection, UK).
Christine Rolland has kindly confirmed the attribution.