Entered September 2015; revised November 2018
Oil on canvas
73 x 94 cm
Two Pairs in Forest
London, Bonhams, October 30, 2013, lot 239: Circle of Jean-Baptiste Pater . . . A fête champêtre / oil on canvas / 74 x 93.5cm (29 1/8 x 36 13/16in). £5,000-7,000 / €5,900-8,300.” Bought in.
Paris, Espace Tajan, June 25, 2014, lot 47: “ÉCOLE FRANÇAISE DU XVIIIE SIÈCLE, ENTOURAGE D’ANTOINE WATTEAU / PASTORALE / Toile / 73 X 94 CM / Sur la toile de rentoilage, une ancienne inscription rapportée. / 5,000 – 7,000 Le groupe de personages à gauche s’inspire de la composition de Watteau, La Déclaration attendue conservée à Angers, musée des Beaux-Arts (toile ovale, 63 x 49 cm).” Bought in.
Munich, Hampel Fine Art Auctions, December 11, 2014, lot 603: “18th century painter from the Watteaschule / TWO PAIRS IN FOREST / oil on canvas / 72 x 90 cm / framed / . . . Estimate €6 000-7 000.”
This painting lacks quality, and the figures are poorly delineated, if not fuzzy. It does not seem to be from the eighteenth century, and while it is dependent on Watteau’s inventions, it does not appear to be by Watteau’s immediate followers or imitators.
When this pastiche came up for sale in 2014, its source of inspiration was misidentified as Watteau’s painting in Angers formerly called Le Concert champêtre, and now known as La Déclaration attendue. However, the more likely source for the seated couple is Watteau’s L’Amoureux timide in Madrid. While both of Watteau’s compositions show the same seated man, timidly withdrawn, the combination of a red jacket and blue trousers is found only in the Madrid painting. Also, the general pose of his female companion—her torso more upright than inclined, her head cocked toward him, and her legs extended—corresponds to the Madrid picture alone.
As for the other couple at the far right side—the woman collecting flowers in her outstretched apron—a similar couple appears at the right side of Les Amusements champêtres and as well, the Berlin version of Le Pélerinage à Cythère.
Borrowing four figures from two unrelated Watteau compositions is just the way that a pasticheur would work. But was he active in the eighteenth century as alleged when the painting was sold in 2014? L’Amoureux timide was not a particularly accessible source. It was not included in the Jullienne Oeuvre gravé and its removal to Spain made it difficult to see until the late nineteenth century. Even then, because it hung in the royal palace in Madrid, it was not highly visible, and commercial photographs were not readily available. Color images of the picture did not circulate until the twentieth century. It was probably only then that this pastiche was created.