Entered July 2016; revised March 2017
Approximately 18.3 x 22.5 cm
Le Départ des pellerins de l’isle d’amour
The composition was engraved in reverse by Benoist Audran le jeune. The print was announced for sale in the December 1727 issue of the Mercure de France (p. 2677), where it was described as one of twenty-two engravings after Watteau that had been issued by François Chereau. Although the announcement claimed that it was listing the recently released prints under the names engraved on them, Bon voyage was referred to as “Le Voyage.” Mariette, Notes manuscrites, 9: fol. 191, no. 11, described the print as “Un amant prenant congé de sa maîtresse avant que de s’embarquer pour Cythère.” Mariette also cited the engraved title.
In turn, Cochin’s print was copied by Louis Crepy, where it retained the title Bon voyage. However, the privélège awarded to Crepy on February 8, 1732, referred to it as “Le Départ des Pellerins de l’Isle d’Amour.”
Neither Audran’s nor Crepy’s prints cited the owner of the painting, and the work cannot be found in eighteenth-century auction catalogues.
Hédouin, “Watteau” (1845), cat. 8.
Hédouin, Mosaïque (1856), cat. 8.
Goncourt, Watteau (1875), cat. 169.
Phillips, Watteau (1895).
Dacier, Vuaflart, and Hérold, Jean de Jullienne et les graveurs (1921-29), cat. 35.
Jamot, Watteau, L’Embarquement (1937), n.p.
Adhémar, Watteau, L’Embarquement (1947), 13-14.
Adhémar, Watteau (1950), cat. 193.
Tolnay, ”L’Embarquement pour Cythère” (1955), 102 n. 11.
Mathey, Watteau, peintures réapparues (1959), 68.
Macchia and Montagni, L’opera completa di Watteau (1968), cat. 177.
Ferré, Watteau (1972), cat. B46.
Paris, Musée de la monnaie, Pèlerinage (1977), cat. 138.
Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Einschiffung nach Cythera (1982), 34.
Roland Michel, Watteau (1984), 201, 203.
Rosenberg and Prat, Watteau, catalogue raisonné des dessins (1996), cat. 93, 139.
Ultimately, the two principal figures in Bon voyage can be traced to studies from the model. The kneeling man is derived from the rightmost figure in an early Watteau drawing in Dresden (Rosenberg and Prat 139). The seated woman, carefully listening to her lover’s words, comes from the central of three studies on a sheet now in the Getty Museum (Rosenberg and Prat 464).
However, the relationship between these studies from the model and Bon voyage was probably indirect. The two drawings were first employed for the 1717 Pèlerinage à Cythère in the Louvre and then for the second version, now in Berlin. Moreover, when executing the Berlin Pèlerinage, Watteau also employed oil counterproofs pulled from an early stage of the Louvre canvas.
As demonstrated below, Bon voyage was probably executed after the Berlin painting, and thus was twice removed from the original chalk studies. When he painted Bon voyage, Watteau had several options open to him. He probably did not return to the original chalk studies nor did he rely on the Louvre painting since that, after all, was in the possession of the Académie. The easiest choice would have been to turn to the Berlin composition. Still one other option remained: he may have made oil counterproofs of all the principal characters in his pièce de réception, including the kneeling man and his female companion, and he might have used them for Bon voyage. It is a tantalizing possibility.
An obvious question in regard to Bon voyage is its relation to the Louvre and Berlin versions of the Pèlerinage. Scholars such as Phillips and Jamot thought that the painting was a study for the Louvre composition, which would mean that it must have been painted prior to 1717, when the painting was accepted by the Académie. So too, Mathey dated the painting earlier than the Louvre version, as early as c. 1713-15. Roland Michel was undecided whether Bon voyage was earlier or later than the two Pèlerinages. The 1982 Frankfurt catalogue also waffled on the issue but favored the idea that Bon voyage was painted prior to the Louvre version.
A study of Watteau’s oeuvre shows that he did not cusomarily paint preliminary versions and later develop them into fuller compositions. Rather, the opposite was true. He occasionally made reductions of earlier compositions, and that process prevailed here as well. Bon voyage should be understood as a reduction created after the Louvre and Berlin paintings. As far back as the mid-nineteenth century Hédouin correctly recognized that this picture was a small version of the two more famous Pèlerinages. Adhémar recognized it as a study after the Louvre painting, and in her chronology she placed it after that work but before the Berlin version. De Tolnay also proposed that sequence. Macchia and Montagni dated it 1717, and somewhat after both versions of the Pèlerinage.
I would propose that Bon voyage was executed after the Berlin painting. The Louvre picture shows just a small but decorative skiff without sails, whereas the Berlin version presents a large, full-sailed boat, the type of galleon imitated in Bon voyage.
Click here for copies of Bon Voyage.