Fêtes au dieu Pan
Los Angeles, Armand Hammer Museum, inv. AH.91.48
Oil on canvas
65 x 82 cm
Festivities in Honor of Pan
Feste in onore del dio Pan
Festes au dieu Pan
Fête au dieu Pan
Fêtes of the God Pan
Youth Playing the Flagelot in a Landscape with Satyrs and Nymphs
Fêtes au dieu Pan was engraved in reverse by Michel Guillaume Aubert, but outside of Jullienne’s Oeuvre gravé. It subsequently was incorporated within that corpus. The print was announced for sale in the April 1734 issue of the Mercure de France, p. 753.
Paris, collection of François Morel (banker), c. 1720. Cited on the Aubert engraving: “Ce Tableau apartien à Mr Morel, Banctier”; by descent in the Morel family.
Lyons, collection of Louis Morel de Voleine (1812-1894; author) or his son with the same name (cited by Paul Mantz, 1892).
Paris, collection of Camille Groult (1837-1908; heir to a fortune from flour milling). His sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, June 21-22, 1920, lot 114: “WATTEAU (JEAN-ANTOINE) . . . Fêtes au dieu Pan. A gauche, sur une hauteur boisée, des naïades se penchant sur de urnes et, à l’entrée d’une grotte qui domine un basin où croissant des Roseaux, un jeune homme est assis près d’une jeune femme ayant une guitare sur ses genoux. Gilles, au centre, joue de la flûte, accoudé sur un pierre. A ses côtés, un homme, tenant un des besicles, s’incline sur un livre près d’un mezzetin. A droite, deux satyres, des nymphes et deux enfants. L’un porte sur sa têteune corbeille de fleurs.
Toile. Haut., 65 cent; larg., 82 cent.
Gravé par M. AUBERT, avec la mention: le tableau original, haut de 2 pieds sur 2 pieds 6 pouces de large, le tableau appartient à M.Morel, banctier. Cité dans le Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, dessiné et gravé d’Antoine Watteau, par Edmond de Goncourt, Paris, Rapilly, 1875, p. 47, no 40.”
Sold to Gallerie Trotti, according to an annotated copy of the sale catalogue in the Wildenstein and Co. library.
Paris, with Galerie Trotti et Cie.
New York, with Wildenstein and Co., c. 1926 (cited in 1926 Detroit Institute of Arts exhibition; also in Dacier, Vuaflart, and Hérold, Jean de Jullienne et les graveurs de Watteau [1921-29], 3: 265 ).
New York, collection of H. E. Stehli (silk merchant). His sale, New York, Parke Bernet Galleries, sale, November 30, 1951, lot 16: sale catalogue at FARL also March 14-15, 1952 at FARL
New York, with Hammer Galleries ; cited in the records of the Hammer Museum.
Memphis, Tennessee, collection of Morrie A. Moss (business man; 1907-93) and Lillian Moss (1905-1985).
New York, with Knoedler, c. 1983. See the letter from Marianne Roland Michel, May 4, 1983, to Nancy C. Little of Knoedler, now in the Roland Michel Archives, Paris, Petit Palais.
Los Angeles, collection of Armand Hammer, bought directly from Moss in March 1984, and circumventing Knoedler.
Estate of Armand Hammer.
Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, The Fourth Loan Exhibition of Old Master, French Paintings of the Eighteenth Century, December 2-20, 1926, cat. 53 (Jean Antoine Watteau . . . Festival to the God Pan, lent by Felix Wildenstein).
Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Armand Hammer Collection (1986) (Watteau, Festivities in Honor of Pan, lent by the Armand Hammer Collection).
Hédouin, “Watteau” (1845), cat. 85.
Hédouin, Mosaïque (1856), cat. 86.
Goncourt, L’Art au dixhuitième siècle (1860), 56.
Goncourt, Catalogue raisonné (1875), cat. 40.
Mollet, Watteau (1883), cat. 40.
Mantz, Watteau (1892), 180-81.
Josz, Watteau (1904), 24, 29, 171.
Phillips, “An Unknown Watteau” (1904), 236.
Fourcaud, “Watteau, Scènes et figures théatrales” (1904), 198.
Zimmerman, Watteau (1912), 12-13.
Pilon, Watteau (1912), 175.
Dacier, Vuaflart, and Hérold, Jean de Jullienne et les graveurs (1921-29), 1: 16, 110; 2: 38, 96, 122; 3: cat. 276, p. 265.
Réau, “Watteau” (1928), cat. 18.
Barker, Watteau (1939), 32-33.
Adhémar, Watteau (1950), 37-38, 56 n.39; cat. 10.
Macchia and Montagni, L’opera completa di Watteau (1968), cat. 9.
Roland Michel, Watteau (1981), cat. 14.
Posner, Watteau (1984), 53-54
Roland Michel, Watteau (1984), 212-13.
Rosenberg and Prat, Watteau, catalogue raisonné des dessins (1996), under cat. 126-28.
Brussels, Palais des beaux-arts, Watteau, Leçon de musique (2013), under cat. 30.
While we might expect to find studies for the many figures in the painting, only three are known and these are for two of the commedia dell’arte characters in the central portion of in the composition.
A small drawing presently on the Paris art market, quite possibly cut from a larger sheet, served as the basis for the comic character at the center of the painting. There are slight adjustments—the fingers on his left hand, his ruff, the inclination of his body, the profile of the hat—but, otherwise, the correspondence is compelling.
The figure of Pierrot playing the flute was studied twice by Watteau. The first is a sheet in the Stockholm Nationalmuseum (Rosenberg and Prat 126) which Count Tessin obtained directly from the artist in 1715, thus giving us a terminus ante quem for the sheet. The figure is drawn in a tightly controlled manner, with linear precision. The second study of this actor, drawn in a much freer, energetic way, is now in the collection of the Louvre (Rosenberg and Prat 127). In this reworking, the position of the left leg has been changed: it is bent at the knee and tucked under the right leg above the calf, just as it is in the painting. As a result, Pierrot’s pant leg is pulled up and the jacket flares differently, as does his jacket. It should also be noted that in this second drawing, his right arm is held more closely to the torso and the brim of the hat is arranged differently, as in the painting. ther changes were introduced in the painting. In the drawing the flute flares slightly at the tip but is flat-ended in the painting.
Fêtes au dieu Pan is a remarkably early painting, closely tied to Watteau’s stay with Claude Gillot. This woodland glen with its host of satyrs and the sense of a centrally-focused celebration recalls several scenes engraved by Gillot, especially his Feste de Bacchus and Feste de Diane. In both of Gillot’s compositions, the worship of the cult statue is interrupted by satyrs who create havoc. In Watteau’s painting, by contrast, the satyrs are tranquil and almost meditative in nature, a mood that is generally prevalent in his works. Strengthening this comparison is the formulation of the titles but, of course, we do not know what title Watteau used; the present title appeared only with the engraving a decade after the artist’s death.
Whereas Gillot’s compositions feature worshippers focused on a central cult statue, there is no central divinity in Watteau’s composition. Rather the assembled people and satyrs are focused on three commedia dell’arte figures: Pierrot playing a flute, the Doctor holding his pince-nez as though he were reading, and a Harlequin assuming his traditional mocking gesture. Like so many of Watteau’s paintings, the painting’s meaning is ambiguous. Is it parodic or does it represent a theatrical performance? We also might wonder why Pierrot is playing a flute; normally he is shown holding or strumming a guitar.
Despite the title emphasizing Pan’s role, the symbols of Bacchus are equally abundant. At the left there are two followers of Bacchus: the man baring his torso but wearing a leopard skin, his companion a lightly draped bacchante with one breast bared. Also a large ewer, presumably for wine, is prominent. However, some emblems of Pan may be present. A prominent element in the landscape is the pine tree on a high hill at the center background—an unusual choice of tree for Watteau. It is possible that this was to remind the viewer of the story of Pitys, a nymph loved by Pan. Fleeing his advances, she was transformed into a fir or pine tree. Also, in the foreground pool, growing out of the water (now visible only in Aubert’s engraving) are reeds—the plant into which the nymph Syrinx was transformed and from which Pan fashioned his reed flute (the so-called pipes of Pan). Were Pierrot playing the pipes of Pan rather than a flute, the subject of the painting might be more explicit.
The painting has suffered greatly, and much of the landscape is completely lost or reconstructed. Conversely, the figural elements are remarkably well preserved. This disparity may be due to the way he painted: while lavishing care on the figures, he appears to have filled in the areas of foliage quickly, using an oxidant to hasten the drying. In time this caused the surface to darken and develop an unpleasant, alligator-like surface which led to scraping and overpainting. All this seems to have occurred with Fêtes au dieu Pan.
Marco Grassi examined the painting in the fall and winter of 1982-1983 for Knoedler, he removed old varnish and restorations. He wrote that “. . . some of the areas, such as the upper background, were almost completely obliterated. The present procedure was concerned principally with . . . attenuating the severely damaged peripheral areas.” In 1985 he again reported on the poor condition of the landscape and wrote “I had inpainted only those parts which were absolutely necessary, toning in the others with no attempt at recreating what might have been a finished image.” Grassi was so struck by the condition of the landscape that he conjectured that these areas had been only “partially finished” and “had suffered further in the interim.” Writing again in October 1985, he proposed that “. . . that it is tempting to think that the paintings may not, in fact, have been entirely finished” by Watteau.
Grassi’s conjecture that the painting not being finished by the artist does not stand up to reason. Aubert’s engraving of the work, executed when the painting was still fresh and in good condition, proves that Watteau did indeed finish the entire surface and with great detail—all the varieties of trees, the shrubbery, the rocks of the grotto. The extent of the loss and the subsequent disfigurement of the landscape can be gauged by comparing a section of the background in the engraving above the leftmost group of figure with the very same passage in the actual painting. The main tree trunk has a different contour, the tree’s foliage has been entirely reshaped, and subsidiary saplings have been added. The bright patch of light blue sky is a modern intrusion.
Similarly, we might consider the distant landscape in the central portion of the painting. The trees and rocky outcroppings are wholly the work of modern “restoration.” Yet it cannot be considered restoration, since it is largely a new invention and does not conform to Aubert’s print. The trees at the left and the amorphous brown mass to the right do not correspond in any way to Aubert’s record of what Watteau had designed.
Seemingly the only point of correspondence is the pine tree and even that proves illusory. A photograph of the painting when it sold from Stehli collection in 1950 shows that at that moment there was no pine tree whatsoever. The tree that is presently visible must be accounted a modern reconstruction, and even the present reconstruction does not match what Aubert engraved. Also the high, triangular mass of foliage in the upper right corner of Stehli’s painting does not correspond to Watteau’s original design nor the present state of the painting, reminding us again of the extent to which the painting’s landscape has suffered.
If scholars are agreed that the painting is Gillotesque and should be dated early in Watteau’s career, after he finished his apprenticeship, there is a wide divergence of opinion as to the year to which it should be assigned. Adhémar dated Fête au dieu Pan to c. 1703-08, Macchia and Montagni suggested 1705, while Roland Michel proposed c. 1706-08. However, Grasselli as well as Rosenberg and Prat would date the preliminary drawings and painting considerably later, c. 1711-12. This later dating seems more reasonable.
If Fêtes au dieu Pan cannot be dated precisely, nonetheless, as singular as it may seem, it can be related to other early paintings by him. In particular, it is analogous to L’Été, the picture representing summer from the Saisons Jullienne, recorded in an engraving by Jean Moyreau. The two paintings share the same sense of a heavily forested landscape with clusters of people, a pool of water in the in the foreground, fountains and sculpted river gods in the background. This does not help date Fêtes au dieu Pan to a specific year, especially because the Saisons Jullienne cannot be dated precisely, but it does reinforce the unity of Watteau’s early oeuvre.
The provenance of the painting is exceptionally full. It remained with one family from its inception until the late nineteenth century, and its passage in the hands of dealers and collectors is well documented. In describing the provenance of this painting, Adhémar wrongly claimed that after the painting was with Groult, it went to “Charly,” and the sale on June 22, 1920, was of Charly’s collection. While the catalogue of that sale describes the collection as coming from “Monsieur X . . . ,” it is universely agreed that this was Groult’s collection. “Charly” is the sort of inexplicable error that frequently crept into Adhémar’s listings of provenance.
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