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A WATTEAU ABECEDARIO

This Watteau Abecedario is a catalogue raisonné of Watteau’s paintings presented in an electronic format. The catalogue is being issued in incremental stages. It went on line in March 2014 and by mid-2015 the first twenty principal entries were ready. An additional hundred paintings—copies and dubious attributions—have also been put on line. New entries will be made available throughout the course of the next years as they are completed.

The principal author of this undertaking is Martin Eidelberg. The opinions expressed here stem from his research and represent his conclusions. He has been assisted by his colleagues Seth Gopin and Lionel Sauvage.

Like all such undertakings, whether electronic or on paper, the Abecedario has several interrelated components. All of these can be accessed by the red tabs underneath the banner at the top of the screen.

 

ACCEPTED PAINTINGS AND COPIES

The principal section of the Watteau Abecedario is the listing of paintings that are believed to be authentic works by the artist. It includes works that are still extant and those known only through engravings and documentary evidence such as auction catalogues. As far as possible, each entry includes a discussion of engravings made of the composition by Watteau’s contemporaries, the painting’s provenance, its exhibition record, a selective listing of significant bibliography, and a discussion of the Watteau drawings with which the painting is associated. There are also notes on past scholarship, a discussion of approximate dates that have been ascribed to the picture, as well as consideration of issues of attribution and iconography. This project is called “A Watteau Abecedario” rather than “The Watteau Abecedario” because it is certain that other scholars will disagree with some of the opinions expressed here. Also, new works will undoubtedly come to light, just as more and better information is bound to appear. This is the nature of scholarship.

As the name “Abecedario” indicates, the organizational scheme is alphabetical. Watteau’s paintings are listed in alphabetical order, using the titles that were created when the compositions were engraved shortly after Watteau’s death. Ocassionally, especially when there is no engraving, the title generally in use today is used. In certain instances, the titles have been systematized differently. For example, rather than scattering the portraits under the names of the different sitters (or presumed sitters), they have been brought together under the rubric of “portrait” and then arranged alphabetically in accord with the sitter’s supposed family name. So too, Watteau’s several cycles of the Four Seasons are arranged under the rubric “saisons.” This system has also been adopted for many of the decorative works (variously listed under “paravent,” “clavecin,” and “décoration"). The red tab “Alternative Titles” under the masthead can be used to help locate paintings known by secondary titles.

Over the last century and a half there have been many attempts to create a catalogue raisonné of Watteau’s paintings and they have used different structures. Among the most notable of the early catalogues is Edmond de Goncourt’s publication of 1875, which is largely structured by types (portraits, satiric and allegorical subjects, religious and mythological subjects, military subjects, etc.) and then is arranged alphabetically within each genre. Ernst Zimmerman’s 1912 contribution in the famed Klassiker der Kunst series is largely an assemblage of images with little text or explanation, and is arranged in supposed chronological order but this is not evident. Emile Dacier, Albert Vuaflart, and Jacques Hérold’s monumental four-volume opus of 1921-29 is, strictly speaking, a catalogue raisonné of the engravings after Watteau’s works, but it is a study of such breadth and information that it far outshines all other publications. Its order largely follows the order of appearance of the prints in the Jean de Jullienne Oeuvre gravé. Louis Réau’s 1928 catalogue, arranged thematically like de Goncourt’s, pales by comparison. Hélène Adhémar’s catalogue, published in 1950, is largely dependent on the Dacier, Vuaflart, and Hérold study; although its information was updated, it often is skimpy and inaccurate. It is arranged chronologically but the assignment of dates is arbitrary. Giovanni Macchia and Ettore C. Montagni’s attempt of 1958, in the Rizzoli series, L’opera completa di . . . , fares no better. It is essentially a restatement of Adhémar’s catalogue. In subsequent years Montagni’s catalogue was published in translated form credited to Ettore C. Camesasca, and was accompanied by new essays by different scholars: John Sunderland, Marianne Roland Michel, and Pierre Rosenberg. I have not considered these later editions since the catalogue portion remained unchanged from the 1968 issue. Jean Ferré’s four-volume opus of 1972 is wholly idiosyncratic and unreliable, and its division into accepted and doubted works is arbitrary. Reynaud Temperini’s 2002 catalogue includes only some of the extant works and does not discuss those no longer extant.

Many of Watteau’s paintings were copied, sometimes within years of his death, but most often decades and even centuries later. Often these works have been attributed to Watteau himself or to specific so-called “satellites.” We have attempted to list all these copies as fully as possible. This material follows the main entry. Access to the copies is found in the main index and can also be accessed by clicking on the indication at the end of each entry. Partial copies of Watteau paintings are still considered copies. However, if the copyist was a pasticheur and added figures of his own invention or borrowed from other Watteau paintings, these paintings are considered separately under “Doubtful Attributions.”

 

DOUBTFUL ATTRIBUTIONS

This section includes many of the pastiches after Watteau and, as well, paintings that have been misattributed to Watteau—all of which are known through photographs or engravings. This section does not does not include copies after accepted paintings, nor does it include paintings known only through textual references. These doubtful attributions are listed alphabetically according to the titles assigned to them in the past, and are documented as fully as possible.

 

DOUBTFUL TEXTUAL REFERENCES

Many paintings that were attributed to Watteau in the past are known today only through references in sale catalogues and inventories, often without descriptions of the compositions, indications of measurements and, without any visual evidence as to their appearance. Oftentimes there is only a generic title. In the interest of inclusivity, all these references have been catalogued with as much information as possible. Since many such listings, even those from the eighteenth century, are highly suspect, they have been characterized as “doubtful.”

 

ALTERNATIVE TITLES

This table is a listing of the alternative names that have been used for paintings by or attributed to Watteau. They are arranged alphabetically, and across from them are the names under which they have been catalogued for this Abecedario. There are electronic links to the appropriate catalogue entries. This table is being built in incremental stages in accordance with the growth of the other parts of the Abecedario.

 

COLLECTORS & MUSEUMS

This table is a compilation of the names of collectors, galleries, and museums that have owned or presently own paintings by or attributed to Watteau and that are presently catalogued in the Abecedario. Clicking on a title in the right-hand column will take the reader directly to the painting where the collector’s or museum’s name appears. This table is being built in incremental stages in accord with the growth of the other parts of the Abecedario.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Throughout the Abecedario, bibliographic references are rendered in short form. This table supplies fuller
bibliographical data; it includes only publications referred to in the text. This table is being built in incremental stages in accordance with the growth of the Abecedario.

 

SEARCH ABECEDARIO

This tab leads the reader to a search engine that enables the user to look for any name or term employed within the Watteau Abecedario. It operates the normal way any such search engine does

 

CONTACT US

Readers with additions, corrections, and suggestions are urged to contact us at the following addresses:

Mailing Address: Dr. Martin Eidelberg, 15 West 72nd Street, New York, NY 10023-3464
Email: watteau.circle@gmail.com