X. Fête Champêtre
Entered October 2017
Oil on canvas
38 x 29.8 cm
Private collection. Sale, New York, Sotheby’s, May 26, 2005, lot 88: ”Property of a Private Collector . . . ATTRIBUTED TO JEAN-ANTOINE WATTEAU . . . FÊTE CHAMPÊTRE / oil on canvas / 15 by 11 ¾ in.; 38 x 29.8 cm. / $40,000-60,000 / £21,300-32,000 / €31,300-46,900.”
Sale, New York, Sotheby’s, May 18, 2006, lot 123: “Property of a Private Collector . . . ATTRIBUTED TO JEAN ANTOINE WATTEAU . . . FÊTE CHAMPÊTRE / oil on canvas / 15 by 11 ¾ in.; 38 x 29.8 cm. / $20,000-30,000 / £11,600-17,400 / €16,600-24,900.” Sold for $18,000 plus premium.
The major source of inspiration for this painting is Watteau’s celebrated Les Plaisirs d’amour, now in the Dresden Gemäldegalerie. The figures at the right—the strolling couple and the man helping the seated woman rise—imitate Watteau’s inventions in most aspects, including not only the poses and the direction of the composition, but also the colors of the costumes. This suggests that either the pasticheur knew Les Plaisirs d’amour firsthand or had access to a color photograph. The two figures at the left side of this composition are less a copy and more a variation on their counterparts in Watteau’s painting. The woman now sits upright rather than inclining, and the man’s posture is totally different. Furthermore, these costumes are not the same as those depicted by Watteau. Finally, although the trees are painted in the manner of Watteau, the large expanse of lake and open space at the left side do not accord with the master’s landscapes.
“Attributed to Watteau,” this work is painted loosely, as though it were a preliminary study for a more finished picture. This is a ploy used by copyists to explain away the deficiencies that might result from a comparison with Watteau’s established oeuvre. However, it should be remembered that Watteau did not execute such painted modelli for his pictures.