X. Plusieurs personnes déguisées en habit de caractère
Entered August 2015
Oil on canvas
61 x 76.2 cm
Paris, collection of Charles Jean Goury, le marquis de Champgrand (1732-1799). His sale, March 11, 1776, lot 57: “VATTEAU . . . Plusieurs personnes déguisées en habits de caractère; l’une est en Arlequin dans un attitude grotesque, la main sur son chapeau; à côté de lui, est une femme en habit de Pierrot. Derrière eux, est une autre femme conversant, en jouant de la guitare avec un Scaramouche. Dans le fond, est un rideau rouge, sous lequel se laisse voir un Pantalon. Haut. 24 pouces, larg. 20 pouces. T.” Dacier and Vuaflart conjecture that the recorded width of 20 pouces is a mistake for 30 pouces (so as to match the painting in the Devouge sale).
Paris, collection of Mathieu François Louis Devouge (b. c. 1745/50; art dealer). His sale, Paris, March 15ff, 1784, lot 118: “ANTOINE WATTEAU . . . Une composition de cinq figures de caractere du théâtre Italien, touchée avec esprit & d'une belle couleur. Hauteur 24 pouces sur 30. T.” Bought for 165 livres by Jacques Langlier (1730-after 1810; painting dealer).
London, Henry Durlacher (1825-1902; art dealer).
London, collection of Thomas Baring (1799-1876; member of Parliament for Huntingdon).
London, Royal Academy, Old Masters (1871), cat. 176 (as by Antoine Watteau, Pierrot: a Group, lent by Thomas Baring, Esq.).
Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain (1854-57), 4: 96-97.
Dacier, Vuaflart, and Hérold, Jean de Jullienne et les graveurs, under cat. 97.
Réau, “Watteau” (1928), under cat. 60.
Adhémar, Watteau (1950), under cat. 163.
Macchia and Montagni, Watteau (1968), under cat. 155.
Posner, Watteau (1984), 2903 note 54.
Plock, "Pierrot, Harlequin and Scapin" (2011).
The owner of the collection sold in 1776 has traditionally been identified as the comte du Barry because a copy of the sale catalogue in the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie has that annotation on the cover. However, Burton Fredericksen at the Getty Provenance Index has established that the owner of that collection was “Verrier,” a pseudonym used by the marquis de Champgrand.
This picture has wrongly been associated with Arlequin, Pierrot et Scapin, particularly with the version that is now at Waddesdon and that once was owned by Thomas Baring. But this association cannot be correct. The exacting description offered in the 1776 sale of the Champgrand collection states that there were six characters in the composition: a Harlequin, a woman dressed as Pierrot, another woman speaking to a guitarist, the guitarist, a Scaramouche, and a Pantaloon. By contrast, Arelquin, Pierrot et Scapin depicts only five characters, does not include two women, and the one woman who is present does not wear a white costume of a type associated with Pierrot. Also, the Champgrand and Devouge paintings were on canvas and large sized, whereas Watteau’s Arlequin, Pierrot et Scapin was on panel and relatively diminutive.
Thomas Baring owned a number of paintings by or attributed to Watteau, not only the Arlequin, Pierrot et Scapin now at Waddesdon Manor, but also a Garden Scene,a Marriage Fête, and a painting listed in Baring’s inventory under cat. 645 as Fete Champetre and listed in Baring’s ledger as Italian Clown and Troops. He identifies it as having been bought in 1854 from the painting dealer Duracher but, unfortunately, the early records of the Durlacher firm were destroyed in 1937. In his ledger, Baring describes the painting as being engraved but does not indicate the title or the engraver’s name, and the accuracy of this information seems doubtful.
The itinerant Dr. Waagen saw this picture in Baring’s London home in 1854 or 1856, in other words, soon after it had been purchased, and described it quite vividly and explicitly: “Pierrot, in his white dress, surrounded with ladies and cavaliers. The background is a garden. This picture, which is about two feet high by 3 ft. wide, is of such vivacity in the heads, clearness and warmth of colouring, and carefulness of execution, that I do not hesitate to pronounce it one of the most remarkable works of the master I know. It recalls the picture in my friend M. de Lacaze’s collection in Paris, only that there the figures as large as life.” The latter reference is to the great Gilles now in the Louvre. It should be noted that Waagen referred to “ladies” in the plural. When Baring exhibited the painting at the Royal Academy in 1874, its measurements were stated to be 24 x 30 inches. Given that the Champgrand, Devogue, and Baring pictures have similarly described subjects, all have the same exceptionally large size, and all are on canvas, there is every reason to believe that they are one and the same.
The later whereabouts of Baring’s picture are unknown. Although he never married and left his art collection to his nephew, the 1st earl of Northbrook, the painting des not appear to have descended to him. Indeed, in his lifetime Baring sold off some paintings privately.