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Jean-Antoine Watteau (Valenciennes 1684-1721 Nogent-sur-Marne)

La Chute d'eau

Jean-Antoine Watteau (Valenciennes 1684-1721 Nogent-sur-Marne)
La Chute d'eau
oil on canvas laid onto panel
20 1/8 x 24 7/8 in. (51.1 x 63.2 cm.)
Jean de Jullienne (1686-1766), Paris, by 1729 and sold from his collection before 1756.
Duchess of Benavente, Madrid.
Dukes of Osuna, the Alameda, Madrid, before 1885 (inv. 427, catalogued as 'Escuela Flamenca'), and given by the Duchess of Osuna to her confessor (according to Desparmet-Fitzgerald), who bequeathed it to
Juan Rodriguez of Valladolid, from whom purchased by
X. Desparmet-Fitzgerald.
Sale; Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 24 June 1937.
Purchased in the 1960s by the grandfather of the present owner.
P.J. Mariette, Notes manuscrites sur les peintres et graveurs, IX, (manuscript in Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1740-1770), folio 194, no. 77.
E. de Goncourt, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, dessiné, et gravé d'Antoine Watteau, Paris, 1875, no. 192.
X. Desparmet Fitzgerald, La Chute d'Eau par Antoine Watteau, Paris, n.d. (after 1896).
E. Dacier, J. Herold & A. Vauflart, Jean de Jullienne et Les Graveurs de Watteau, Paris, 1921-1929, III, no. 164, p. 81.
H. Adhémar, Watteau: sa vie - son oeuvre, Paris, 1950, p. 211, no. 88, fig. 41.
J. Mathey, Antoine Watteau, peintures reapparues, Paris, 1959, p. 67, dated 1712.
E. Camesasca & J. Sutherland, The Complete Paintings of Watteau, New York, 1968, p. 101, no. 86.
J. Ferre, Watteau, Madrid, 1972, I, pp. 208, 212, 1729; IV, pp. 1107, 1120.
M.P. Eidelberg, Watteau's Drawings, Their Uses and Significance, Ph.D diss., Princeton University, 1977, pp. 75 and 83.
E. Camesasca, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Watteau, Paris, 1983, p. 101, no. 86.
M.R. Michel, Watteau: An Artist of the Eighteenth Century, London, 1984, p. 160.
Watteau 1684-1721, exhibition catalogue, Washington, Paris, Berlin, 1984, p. 322, fig. 1.
D. Posner, Antoine Watteau, Ithaca, N.Y., 1984, pp. 109 and 283, fig. 87.
R. Demoris, 'Watteau, le Paysage et ses figures', in Antoine Watteau (1684-1721): The Painter, His Age and His Legend (ed. F. Moreau & M. Morgan Grasselli), Paris & Geneva, 1987, p. 157.
J.J. Luna, 'Watteau et l'Espagne', in Antoine Watteau (1684-1721): The Painter, His Age and His Legend (ed. F. Moreau & M. Morgan Grasselli), Paris & Geneva, 1987, p. 281.
M.P. Eidelberg, 'Watteau's Italian Reveries', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, October 1995, pp. 121, 122, and 136.
P. Rosenberg & L.-A. Prat, Antoine Watteau, 1684-1721, Catalogue raisonné des dessins, Milan 1996, I, p. 194, under no. 122; III, p. 1242, under no. R359.
R. Temperini, Watteau, Milan & Paris, 2002, p. 141, no. 21, dated 1712?
Watteau et la fête galante, exhibition catalogue, Valenciennes, 2004, p. 51.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Plaisir de France, 1951.
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Lot Essay

Although most of Watteau's painted compositions are set out of doors, 'pure' landscapes are rare in his oeuvre. La Chute d'eau ('Landscape with a Waterfall') is one of the few to survive that can be securely attributed to the artist and documented to the years immediately after his death. (Not more than a half-dozen pure landscapes are known today, including the Paysage à la rivière in the Hermitage, St Petersburg and the small panel Paysage à la chèvre in the Louvre, Paris, both unrecorded by Watteau's contemporaries.) The present painting was engraved by Jean Moyreau for inclusion in the Recueil Jullienne, and, indeed, the print was announced in the Mercure de France in March 1729.

Venetian landscape drawings by Titian and Campagnola, of the type that Watteau is known to have studied and copied in the collection of his patron Pierre Crozat, are often posited as influences on La Chute d'eau, but Guillaume Glorieux (op. cit., Valenciennes 2004) has ingeniously proposed an engraving by Aegidius Sadeler (c. 1570-1629) - itself based on a composition of The Rest of the Flight into Egypt by Jan Breughel the Elder - as the model for Watteau's landscape. While Watteau transformed Sadeler's New Testament episode into an unhurried and supremely secular déjeunner sur l'herbe, almost all of the distinctive elements found in the print - the double waterfall that combines into a single stream as it falls over a rocky outcropping, the rustic fabriques on the distant hilltop, the overwhelming sense of immense natural grandeur - reappear in Watteau's luminous pastoral.

Although it has few obvious comparisons in Watteau's oeuvre, La Chute d'eau is relatively easy to date. The schematic poplar trees and large, comparatively flat planes of the landscape, so reminiscent of painted stage backdrops, are very similar to those found in the parkland settings of the earliest fêtes galantes, such as La conversation (CR.105; Toledo Museum of Art) and Le Bal champêtre (CR. 92; De Noailles collection, France), two paintings which are datable to around 1712-1713. A single known figure drawing is associated with La Chute, depicting the reclining man who rests on his elbow just to the right of the waterfall; the sketch appears on a sheet comprising a half-dozen studies of seated male figures in Stockholm (PR.122) that is generally dated around 1711. (This sheet is amoung the group of red-chalk counterproofs acquired by Count Tessin directly from Watteau during the Swedish connoisseur's 1715 visit to Paris, providing a terminus ante quem for the painting as well.) Finally, the charming figural group in La Chute d'eau - with its two flirtatious couples, curious dog, and even more attentive shepherd - strongly evokes the figure types of Watteau's teacher Claude Gillot, and are almost identical in handling to the figures in Watteau's mythological parody Fêtes du dieu Pan (CR. 9; Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles), a painting almost certainly datable to 1711-1712. Likewise, 1711-1712 is the most likely date for La Chute d'eau.

The painting will appear in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Watteau's paintings by Alan Wintermute, currently in preparation.

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