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Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)

A portrait of Nicolas Vleughels, seated and looking down to the left, tuning his violin

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
A portrait of Nicolas Vleughels, seated and looking down to the left, tuning his violin
with inscription 'Vateau' (partly cut)
red, black and white chalk on light brown paper
9 5/8 x 7½ in. (24.5 x 18.9 cm.)
Anon. sale; Paris, 2 April 1909, lot 35 (1,850 francs to Nagelmaker).
With Richard Owen, Paris, from whom purchased in August 1927 by
John Nicholas Brown, Providence, Rhode Island.
K.T. Parker, The Drawings of Antoine Watteau, London, 1931, p. 31.
J. Mathey, 'Une sanguine au cabinet des dessins des musées de Poitiers', Les Amis des Musées de Poitiers, V (January 1952), p. 2.
K.T. Parker and J. Mathey, Antoine Watteau, catalogue complet de son oeuvre dessiné, Paris, 1957, II, no. 842.
D. Posner, Antoine Watteau, London, 1984, pp. 239 and 289, notes 25 and 26.
P. Rosenberg et al., Watteau, 1684-1721, exhib. cat, Washington, National Gallery of Art and elsewhere, 1984, pp. 361-2, fig. 8.
M. Morgan Grasselli, The drawings of Antoine Watteau, stylistic development and problems of chronology, Cambridge, Harvard University (unpublished doctoral thesis), 1987, pp. 324, 331 (note 16), no. 264, and fig. 396.
M. Morgan Grasselli, 'News: U.S.A', The Watteau Society Bulletin, III (1994), p. 55.
P. Rosenberg and L.-A. Prat, Antoine Watteau, 1684-1721, Catalogue raisonné des dessins, Milan, 1996, II, no. 593.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fogg Art Museum, 1929, no. 231.
Providence, Rhode Island School of Design, 1931.
Buffalo, New York, Albright Art Gallery, Master Drawings selected from the Museums and Private Collections of America, 1935, no. 61.
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, 1939.
Omaha, Nebraska, Joslyn Memorial Art Museum, 10th Anniversary Celebration, 1941, no. 134.
Oberlin College, Ohio, Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1951.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Winter Exhibition, 1954, no. 283.
Rotterdam, Boymans van Beuningen Museum, and elsewhere, French drawings from American collections: Clouet to Matisse, 1959.
New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Art Gallery, 1966, no. 49.

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Lot Essay

Nicolas Vleughels (1668-1737) was an artist, teacher and administrator, and like his close friend Watteau, of Flemish origin. He must have sat frequently for Watteau, as his likeness appears in several drawings that were used either portrait-like or as stock poses in his paintings. Vleughels can easily be recognized by his long, bony nose, narrow, slanted eyes, high forehead and receding, double chin. Watteau would often make sketches of his friends, sometimes dressed in costume, and then use them in his paintings.

Vleughels is seated and playing the violin in the present drawing. Watteau used the same pose with differences to the facial features and minor variations to the costume in his painting Le prélude au concert now in the Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin (Fig. 1; P. Rosenberg, 1984, op. cit., no. 48). His sideways glance in the drawing is directed in the painting towards the sheet music open on the lap of the woman to the right of the violinist. There are three other drawings by Watteau related to this painting. Girl seated with a book of music on her lap corresponds to the woman to the right of Vleughels in the painting (Oxford, Ashmolean Museum; Rosenberg and Prat, op. cit., II, no. 590). Two studies of a violinist tuning his instrument (Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; ibid., no. 594) are for the musician seen behind and between Vleughels and the seated woman. Finally, a sheet of studies at the Louvre includes a sketch of the seated girl playing with a dog (Inv. 33366; ibid., I, no. 229) for the child seated on the floor in the foreground of the painting.

Vleughels's posed for at least three other drawings by Watteau - (ibid., nos. 338, 600, and 638). He appears again in paintings, this time more prominently, and in different guise in the pendant to Le prélude au concert, The charms of life (Wallace Collection, London). In Les charmes de la vie he stands behind the musicians, leaning on the back of a chair, a listener, not a participant in the concert. The physiognomy is closer to Vleughel's own than in the Wallace Collection figure. He also appears in Fête vénitienne of circa 1718 (Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland).

Vleughels' role as a sitter for Watteau's drawings from life and his appearance in various paintings is testament to the close friendship between the two who were also roommates in Paris around 1717-18. Since the two men are documented as having crossed paths since at least 1716, and may have known each other even before that, it is difficult to date with precision when the present drawing and its associated painting were executed. These two Flemish artists may have met as early as 1702 when Watteau first arrived in Paris, where Vleughels already lived before his first sojourn in Italy. They would have certainly met soon after his return in 1715 as Vleughels was a member of the Académie where Watteau was received on 28 August 1717. While not as well-known, or indeed, as gifted an artist as Watteau, Vleughels had a significant career of his own in the art world during Watteau's lifetime, and after his friend's untimely death in 1721, at the age of 37. Vleughels returned to Rome in 1724 and became Director of the Académie de France at the Palazzo Mancini, a position he held until his death in 1737. During his tenure as director he taught some of the most important French artists of the 18th Century including Michel-François Dandré-Bardon, Charles-Joseph Natoire, Pierre Subleyras and Carle Vanloo.

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