Nicolas Vestier was a pupil of with his father, the portrait painter Antoine Vestier, and of the history painter Nicolas-Guy Brenet. He studied at the Académie Royale d'Architecture from 1781 to 1790, and became a very active architect, particularly involved in speculative building. He was also a gifted portraitist. Several other large portrait drawings by him are known, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in Dijon, Blérancourt, and sold at Drouot, 26 April 1923, lot 26 and 30 June 1925, lots 9-10. All are dated between 1785 and 1789.
Another portrait of Madame Grand, famously mistress and then wife of the Prince de Talleyrand-Périgord, by Vigée-Lebrun, dated 1783, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, J. Baillio, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun, exhib. cat., Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, 1982, no. 12.
Catherine-Noële Worlée's was born in India in 1762, and lived in Pondicherry where her father was a French official. In 1777 the family moved to Chandernagore where Catherine married George Francis Grand, an English civil servant. The same year the couple moved to Calcutta where the young woman had an affair with Sir Philip Francis. Grand and his wife then returned to Chandernagore, but eventually Madame Grand moved to England with Francis. By the 1780s, she had settled in Paris where she became a notorious courtesan. Her official lover then was the rich banker Valdec de Lessart. In 1792 she fled the Revolution to London, but soon returned with her new lover, the Genoese banker Spinola. During the Directoire she was imprisoned, but Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838), an ex-priest, then just returning from America, came to her help. He wrote a reavealing letter to Barras, a member of the Directoire, in her defense: 'On vient d'arrêter madame Grand comme conspiratrice. C'est la personne d'Europe la plus éloignée et la plus incapable de se mêler d'aucune affaire. C'est une indienne bien belle, bien paresseuse, le plus désoccupée de toutes le femmes que j'aie jamais rencontrées.....Je l'aime; et je vous atteste à vous, d'homme à homme que de sa vie elle ne s'est mêlée et n'est en état de se mêler d'aucune affaire. C'est une véritable indienne, et vous savez à quel degré cette espèce de femmes est loin de toute intrigue', in Bibliographie universelle, Paris, 1855, vol. 83, p. 186.
Talleyrand later became Minister of Foreign Affairs, and lived with Mme. Grand in the Minister's official residence. In 1802 Bonaparte, who did not like unmarried couples, forced the Minister to marry his mistress, who first had to divorce her English husband. George Grand was quickly found, and having agreed to the divorce was given money for the settlement, before being sent to a distant island. After the Empire she separated from her husband, and moved to London. In the last years of her life she moved back to Paris and died there in 1835.
Madame Grand was renowned for her beauty and for her too numerous, though involuntary, bon-mots. Madame Vigée-Lebrun recounts that Talleyrand one day asked his wife to read Vivant-Denon's book about his travels in Egypt, as the writer was coming to dinner that evening. Instead Madame Grand inadvertendly read Robinson Crusoe. During the dinner she asked a startled Vivant-Denon 'Ah! monsieur, with what pleasure I have just read about your trip! how interesting it is especially when you met poor Friday'. On another occasion, when asked where she was from, she replied 'Je suis d'Inde', which in French has a double meaning.