The sitter was the scion of a noble French family of Blsois. His grandfather, Paul Phelypeaux, seigneur de Pontchartrain, had been scretaire d'tat to Marie de' Medici, and his maternal grandfather was the famous avocat gnral. However, despite his great ability, Pontchartrain was for long held back in his advancement. His father had been one of Fouquet's judges, and, resisting all the threats and blandishments of Colbert and Le Tellier, had refused to condemn him, thereby incurring their enmity towards his family. It was not until 1677 that his son was finally appointed to the premire prsidence of Rennes. He fulfilled his duties so well that in 1687, the contrleur gnral, Le Peletier, brought him into his circle, appointing him intendant des finances, and then in 1689 nominating him his successor. In 1699, he was appointed chancellor of France. In that office he diligently tended the interests of the State, in particular in upholding the freedoms of the French Church in the face of the growing influence of the Jesuits. The death of his wife in 1714 led him to give up his office - a decision that was eased by his knowledge that he had become the object of dislike of Madame de Maintenon, the King's mistress. He retired to a life of prayer and good works, becoming 'even greater through the goodness of his retirement than through the virtues with which he had imbued his office'.