X. Elegant Company in a Grove
Entered June 2020
Oil on canvas
90.5 x 100.5 cm
New York, Newhouse Galleries.
New York, sale, Sotheby’s October 21, 1988, lot 71: “Attributed to Philippe Mercier (1689-1760) / ELEGANT COMPANY IN A GROVE WITH A SWING / oil on canvas / 35½ x 39½ 90.5 by 100.5 cm. / Provenance: Newhouse Galleries, New York /$6,000—8,000.”
Attributing this painting to Mercier is one of the customary ploys in the art market for giving a name to an otherwise anonymous copy or pastiche after Watteau. In all probability, the painting may have been previously attributed to Watteau. In certain ways it also does resemble aspects of Mercier’s work—especially the way in which the figures are separate, unrelated units, and the man dancing has an English air. But there are no specific traits or mannerisms that sustain an attribution to Mercier.
In essence, the painting is a pastiche The guitarist at the left is borrowed from Wattaeu’s L’Avanturière. Similarly, the couple at the left is based on two figures in Sous un habit de Mezetin. In both instances the figures are in the same direction as those in the paintings and not in reverse as they would have been had the copyist had been working from the prints. On the other hand, the woman on the swing could be read as a paraphrase of the principal figure at the center of the engraving after Watteau’s arabesque, L’Escarpolette. The sources for the other figures have not yet been identified.