Jean-Antoine WATTEAU
(Valenciennes, 1684 - Nogent-sur-Marne, 1721)

To Protect A Beauty’s Honor

19 x 26.5 cm.. (7 ½ x 10 716 in.)
c. 1708 Oil on prepared panel

Provenance
• Probably Jeanne Baptiste d’Albert de Luynes collection, Countess of Verrue (1670-1736), Paris.
• Her Sale, Paris, March 27th, 1737, as one of the "two pictures by Gillot or Vatteau."
• Probably Jean-Corneille Landgraff collection, Paris.
• His Sale, Paris, maîtres Boileau et Hayot, December 21st, 1784, lot 25 (sold for 402 livres to M. Saubert or Sobert): “A. Watteau. Deux Tableaux, représentant des companies d’hommes & de femmes dans des Jardins ; dans l’un on remarque un grouppe (sic) de figures, occupées à faire de la musique ; dans l’autre, pour principal personnage, une jeune Dame & un homme sous un habillement de Pierrot. Ces deux tableaux sont chauds de couleur & gracieux pour leur composition. Sur bois, Haut. 9 pouc., larg. 11 pouces & demi.” (To Watteau. Two Pictures, depicting companies of men and women in Gardens; in one can be seen a group of figures occupied in making music; in the other, the main figures are a young Lady and a man dressed as Pierrot. These two pictures have wam gracious colors in their compositions. On wood. Height 9 inches, width 11 ½ inches.)
• Probably M. Saubert or Sobert collection, Paris.
• Probably Antwerp, private collection.
• Antwerp Sale, Raedt, July 30th, 1812 (Lugt 8233), lot 44: “Deux petits Tableaux, peints par Watthot, représentant des réjouissances de Carnaval.” (Two small pictures, painted by Watthot, depicting Carnival merry-making.)
• France, Private Collection.
• Docteur R., Paris Collection.
• London, Private Collection.
• Belgium, Private Collection.

Related Works
- The figure of Pierrot was prepared in a red chalk drawing by the master (Paris, Jacquemart-André Museum, inv. 1592, see Rosenberg, Pratt, cat. 621). It can also be seen in Pierrot Standing, a decor painted by Watteau and engraved by Louis Crépy (D.-V. 161).
- The sleeping cat is remniscent of a black chalk sketch dated by Rosenberg and Pratt to about 1718 (Paris, Louvre Museum, inv. 33358 ; Rosenberg and Pratt, cat. 614).
- La composition was engraved in the correct direction by Charles-Nicolas Cochin in 1729. Also see the Julienne Recueuil: L’œuvre d’Antoine Watteau peintre du Roy en son Academie Roïale de Peinture et Sculpture gravé d’après ses Tableaux & Desseins originaux tirez du Cabinet du Roy & des plus curieux de l’Europe par les Soins de M. de Jullienne, Paris, n.d. [1735], pl. 19.
- The painting or its engraving inspired many later copies:

  • -Oil on wood: 22.3 x 32.1 cm. with the pendant, Belles n’écoutez rien (Beauties, Don’t Listen to Anything), Hans Haler collection, Locarno, in 1982, with a signature, probably apocryphal, of Gillot; in reverse, 22 x 32 cm. Mme Duchamp collection, Nice, in 1981;
  • -Oil on canvas, 19th c. Copy, 187 x 122 cm. Hôtel de Ville, Château de Prayssas, inv. IM 47002185; trimmed copy cit. H. Coureaux-Enault; 65 x 81 cm. Brussels Art Auction Sale, Oct. 28th, 2014, lot 198;
  • -In shades of pink, round, dia. 85.1 cm. Sale, Christie’s South Kensington, London, February 7th, 1990, lot 214;
  • -In red and black chalk, 19.8 x 26.2 cm., Louvre Museum inv. 33387;
  • -In sanguine, 22.5 x 28.6 cm. Orleans, Fine Arts Museum, inv. 1147c.

- Four figures were reproduced in Meissen porcelaine, Christie’s Sale, London, March 18th, 1987.
- Three figures appeared in Painting or The Monkey Painter, known through an engraving by Desplaces for the Julienne Recueil (D.-V. 168).

  • Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux drew Harlequin and Pierrot after the engraving (Louvre Museum inv. RF 29999).
    - The composition was reproduced in a fan (Paris, BnF, Cabinet des Estampes) and a lock (c. 1730, Paris, Decorative Arts Museum, inv. 27443).

The subject of this painting is drawn from the final scene (Act III, scene 5) of a comedy by Pierre-François Bianciolelli “Arlequin fille malgré lui” (Harlequin a Girl in spite of Himself) performed only once at the Foire Saint-Laurent in 1713. The Doctor arrives on the scene and catches Colombine in gallant conversation with Léandre. In the background are Pierrot and Harlequin, who has shed his female attire, (now in the basket in the left foreground).

The verse under Cochin’s engraving is the source of the title:

(Pour garder l’honneur d’une belle
Veillez et la nuit et le jour,
Contre les pièges de l’Amour
C’est trop peu de Pierrot pour faire sentinelle.
)

“To protect a beauty’s honor,
Watch out night and day
For the traps set by Cupid
It’s not enough for Pierrot to stand guard.”

We would like to thank Mr. Alan Wintermute and Martin Eidelberg for having confirmed the attribution after examining our picture. The painting will be included in the artist’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné by Mr. Alan Wintermute and in the on-line Watteau catalogue, A Watteau Abecedario by Mr. Martin Eidelberg (www.watteau-abecedario.org).

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