Potain studied at the Académie de France in Rome and was a pupil of François-André Vincent (1746-1816). He was mainly active in Rome and won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1785 (see D. Rosenfeld et.al. European Painting and Sculpture, ca. 1770-1937, in the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Pennsylvania, 1991, p.37). He exhibited paintings of historical subjects at the Salon in Paris between 1793 and 1798.
Marie-Adrienne is the artist’s sister and wife of architect Pierre Rousseau (1751-1829), the young lady, Rose-Marie-Charlotte, is their daughter. Rousseau was a pupil of the architect Nicolas-Marie Potain (1723-1790), the artist’s father, who was prominent in his day. He was among the principal assistants of King Louis XV’s chief architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel (1698-1782). Under his guidance Potain was the building inspector at Fontainebleau, directed the construction of the Place Louis XV (now Place de la Concorde) and of the opera house at Versailles. He also collaborated with Gabriel on Louis XV’s grand project of rebuilding Versailles. Rousseau himself is best known for designing l'hôtel de Salm, currently the Palais de la Légion in Paris. Interestingly, François-André Vincent painted Rousseau’s portrait in 1774, which is now in Musée de l'hôtel Sandelin, Saint-Omer.
Approximately 10-15 years before the present lot was painted, Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun painted Madame Rousseau and her daughter. This portrait dates to 1789 and is in Musée du Louvre, Paris.