X. Grand personnage de la cour de Louis XV
Entered October 2018
Pastel on paper
Un Joueur de cornemeuse
Paris, sale, Hôtel de ventes mobilières, March 6-7, 1846, lot 114: “WATTEAU (Antoine). . . . Portrait en pied d’un grand personnage de la cour de Louis XV: il est en costume de berger, selon la mode adoptée alors pour les travestissements, et il tient sous le bras une cornemeuse dont il paraìt jouer. (Pastel.)”
Paris, collection de M.xxx . His sale, Paris, Hôtel des ventes, December 5-7, 1850, lot 75: “WATTEAU (genre). . . . Joueur de cornemeuse.”
It is not certain that the works sold in 1846 and 1850 are one and the same. The former was fully attributed to Watteau, was fully described, and was noted to be a pastel, whereas the latter was not described, and was ascribed only to “genre” of Watteau. But both have the unusual feature of the sitter playing the same musical instrument.
Any attempt to assign to Watteau to a portrait of someone at the court of Louis XV is a dubious idea from the outset since, after all, Watteau’s activity as a painter extended only from the late reign of Louis XIV to the Regency. The description of this portrait as man costumed as a shepherd playing a bagpipe or, more properly, a courtly musette, recalls the famed image of Gaspard de Gueidan by Hyacinth Rigaud, where this Advocate General of the Aix-en-Provence Parliament holds a musette under his arm. Other mid-eighteenth century French portraits employ the same conceit.