X. Fetes Champetres
Entered October 2017
Oil on canvas
87.7 x 95.7 cm
London, Christie’s South Kensington, June 21, 1990, lot 144: “After Jean Antoine Watteau / Fetes Champetres / unframed / 31 x 37 ¾ in. (78.7 x 95.7 cm.) / £2,000-4,000.”
Wildenstein, Lancret (1924), cat. 285.
Ananoff and Wildenstein, Boucher (1976), 1: cat. 144.
This painting is not related to Watteau or his followers as was suggested when it came up at auction in 1990. Rather, it is a pastiche in the true sense of the word, drawing upon inventions by Boucher and Lancret. The man at the left, playing a stringed instrument, his female companion singing from a part book, the still life with putti at the right, and even the little still life with an upright guitar, are all based on elements in La Musique, an engraving by Pierre Aveline after a Boucher drawing. That engraving spawned several other paintings attributed to Watteau and his school, but they are all probably nineteenth-century pictures.
In addition, and a telling sign of a pasticheur at work, the Pierrot and the woman recoiling from his embrace are taken from a work by a different artist: Nicolas Lancret’s Conversation galante in the Wallace Collection. The pasticheur did not rely on the painting itself but, as the reversed direction indicates, relied on the engraving after it by Jacques Philppe Le Bas (1707-1783), a print issued in 1743.
Quite possibly, Fetes Champetres was painted not in the eighteenth century but in the mid-nineteenth century during the Rococo Revival. This work, A Couple Making Music, and A Couple and a Child Making Music are all possibly from the same studio.