Jean-Marc Nattier was born in 1685 in Paris, the son of a portrait painter and a miniaturist.
He received his first instruction from his father, and he refused to proceed to the French Academy in Rome, though he had taken the first prize at the Paris Academy at the age of 15. In 1715 he went to Amsterdam, and painted portraits of the tsar and the empress Catherine, but declined an offer to go to Russia.
Between 1715 and 1720 he devoted himself to compositions which he painted for Peter the Great, and which led to his election to the Academy. Due to the financial collapse of 1720 caused by the schemes of Law Nattier found himself forced to devote his whole energy to portraiture. He became the painter of the artificial ladies of Louis XV's court.
He died in Paris in 1766.