The French Comedians, 1720–21

The French Comedians, 1720–21
Jean Antoine Watteau (French, 1684–1721)
Oil on canvas
22 1/2 x 28 3/4 in. (57.2 x 73 cm)
The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.54)

Mezzetin, probably 1718–20

Mezzetin, probably 1718–20
Jean Antoine Watteau (French, 1684–1721)
Oil on canvas
21 3/4 x 17 in. (55.2 x 43.2 cm)
Munsey Fund, 1934 (34.138)

Watteau, Music, and Theater - Metropolitan Museum


Watteau, Music, and Theater, the first exhibition of Jean-Antoine Watteau's paintings in the United States in 25 years, will be presented at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from September 22 through November 29, 2009

The exhibition will demonstrate the place of music and theater in Watteau's art, exploring the tension between an imagery of power, associated with the court of Louis XIV, and a more optimistic and mildly subversive imagery of pleasure that was developed in opera-ballet and theater early in the 18th century. It will demonstrate that the painter's vision was influenced directly by musical works devoted to the island of Cythera, the home of Venus, and to the Venetian carnival, and will shed new light on a number of Watteau's pictures

Among the many highlights of Watteau, Music, and Theater will be the Metropolitan Museum's Watteau paintings Mezzetin and French Comedians; the Städel Museum'sThe Island of Cythera; Pleasures of the Dance from the Dulwich Picture Gallery; Love in the French Theater and Love in the Italian Theater, both from the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin; and The Alliance of Music and Comedy (private collection), which has not been on view in any museum in decades.

The exhibition will mark the first time the painting La Surprise (private collection) will be seen in a museum. Lost for almost 200 years and presumed to have been destroyed, La Surprise was rediscovered last year in a British country house and later sold at auction.

Exquisite drawings by Watteau, including works from the Art Institute of Chicago, The Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, Massachusetts, and The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, will also be featured.

Other lenders to the exhibition are Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran (National Trust for Scotland); Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Schloss Sansoucci, Potsdam (Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg); Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; and National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Pictures by Lancret will come from Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, Dallas; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

The exhibition will also include works by contemporaries of Watteau, including Nicolas Lancret and Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Pater, who were influenced by him; fine drawings and engravings by other 18th-century European artists; Meissen porcelain figures depicting theatrical characters; and musical instruments of the era, including a rare Musette de Cour, or early bagpipe, from the Metropolitan Museum's collection.


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