Antoine Watteau (1684 Valenciennes - 1721 Nogent-sur-Marne)
Red chalk, framing lines in pen and brown ink ; 16 x 10.9 cm
Paris, Me Wateau collection (?) ; Rouen, André Lesouëf collection (in 1957) ; Paris, Galerie Cailleux ; Paris, Claus Virch collection ; London, Day & Faber Ltd. (in 2012) ; Berlin, Bernd Schultz collection ; Berlin, Grisebach, 25th October 2018.
Karl Theodore Parker, Jacques Mathey, Antoine Watteau : catalogue complet de son œuvre dessiné, vol.I, Paris, F. de Nobele, 1957, no. 10 (reproduced) ; Martin Eidelberg, "The Jullienne Spring Antoine Watteau," in Apollo, August 1986, pp. 99, 103 ; Margaret M. Grasselli, The Drawings of Antoine Watteau, Stylistic Development and Problems of Chronology, Ph.D. diss, Harvard University, 1987, no. 41 (reproduced) ; Louis-Antoine Prat, Pierre Rosenberg, Antoine Watteau, Catalogue raisonné des dessins, vol.I, Milan, Gallimard-Electa, 1996, fig. 63 (reproduced) ; Louis-Antoine Prat, Le dessin français au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Louvre éditions, 2017, fig. 35 (reproduced).
Gersaint, Watteau's dealer, admitted to "giving preference to his drawings over his paintings. Watteau felt the same way. He was more pleased with his drawings than his paintings (...). He found more satisfaction in drawing than in painting" (catalogue of the Angran de Fonspertuis sale, Paris, 1747). Bitter praise as well as generous one, coming from a merchant, as these drawings were not for sale, and we can quote here Caylus, Watteau's friend and biographer : "His custom was to draw his studies in a bound book, so he always had a large number of them at hand (...). When he decided to make a painting, he had recourse to his collection. He chose the figures that best suited him. " (Vie d’Antoine Watteau, conference at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, 1748)
Watteau died at 37, worked slowly, and reused his drawings. They are consequently relatively few in number (669 in the reference catalogue of Louis-Antoine Prat and Pierre Rosenberg). On the other hand, dating them accurately is difficult. We find, for example, this figure, more clumsily drawn and dressed differently, in an early work, Le Printemps des Saisons Jullienne (Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 23rd November 2012, no. 97) ; but also, inverted, modified, in the masked figure of Voulez-vous triompher des belles (London, Wallace collection), a mature work.
This drawing, writes Louis-Antoine Prat, is "as quick as subtle". We can also add, as a general characteristic of Watteau's drawings, elegance. No application, no hesitation, no imperfection, from head to toe, including the costume.
This discreet but obvious quality is confirmed by the profile of the different owners of the drawing, which reappeared in 1957 in the first catalogue raisonné : André Lesouëf, a Norman cotton industrialist, typical of those vanished generations of entrepreneurial collectors ; Claus Virch, chief curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum and then, after 1970, a dealer and collector ; and Bernd Schultz, founder of the Berlin auction house Grisebach.