Jean-Antoine Watteau (Valenciennes 1684-1721 Nogent-sur-Marne)
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 2… Read more PROPERTY OF THE ESTEE LAUDER FUND OF THE NEUE GALERIE, NEW YORK (LOTS 57-59)
Jean-Antoine Watteau (Valenciennes 1684-1721 Nogent-sur-Marne)

Five studies of children

Jean-Antoine Watteau (Valenciennes 1684-1721 Nogent-sur-Marne)
Five studies of children
with inscription 'Watteau' (lower right)
red chalk
7 7/8 x 14 1/8 in. (20 x 35.9 cm.)
Camille Groult, and by descent to his son
Jean Groult, and by descent to to his son
Pierre Bordeaux-Groult.
with Wildenstein & Co., New York, where acquired by Estée Lauder.
E. de Goncourt, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, dessiné et gravé d'Antoine Watteau, Paris, 1875, under no. 545.
J. Mathey, 'Remarques sur la chronologie des peintures et dessins d'Antoine Watteau', Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art français, 1939 [1940], p. 160.
A.F. Blunt and E. Croft-Murray, Venetian Drawings of the XVII & XVIII Centuries in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, London, 1957, p. 61, under no. 351, and fig. 40, p. 63.
K.T. Parker and J. Mathey, Antoine Watteau: Catalogue complet de son oeuvre dessiné, Paris, 1957, II, no. 691, illustrated.
M. Cormack, The Drawings of Watteau, London, 1970, p. 34, under pl. 78.
M. Morgan Grasselli, in Watteau 1684-1721, Washington, National Gallery of Art and elsewhere, 1984-5, p. 215.
M. Morgan Grasselli, The Drawings of Antoine Watteau: Stylistic Development and Problems of Chronology, Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1987, pp. 237, 239-40, 246, 302, no. 173, fig. 276.
J. Ingamells, The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Pictures: Vol. 3, French Before 1815, London, 1989, p. 357.
F. Vivian, in The Consul Smith Collection: Masterpieces of Italian Drawing from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, Raphael to Canaletto, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, and elsewhere, 1989-90, p. 58, under no. 2, illustrated.
P. Rosenberg and L.-A. Prat, Antoine Watteau, 1684-1721: Catalogue raisonné des dessins, Milan, 1996, II, no. 440.
L.-A. Prat, in Watteau: The Drawings, exhib. cat., London, Royal Academy of Arts, 2011, p. 128, under no. 53.
Watteau and his world: French drawings from 1700-1750, New York, The Frick Collection and elsewhere, 1999-2000, no. 22, cat. by A. Wintermute.
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Hélène Rihal
Hélène Rihal

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Lot Essay

It is a testimony to the great charm of this drawing that the Venetian painter Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734) decided to copy it while he was visiting Watteau's studio. Ricci's red and black chalk drawing - once part of Consul Smith's collection and now in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle (inv. RL6996; Blunt and Croft-Murray, op. cit., no. 351) - is far from a slavish copy as, while keeping the individual heads, it rearranges their mis en page. The date and circumstances of Ricci's meeting with Watteau are well documented: in a letter to the Venetian pastellist Rosalba Carriera dated 16 December 1716, Pierre Crozat (1661-1740) - the greatest French collector of his time and a wealthy financier - mentioned 'M. Vateau est un jeune homme chez qui je menay il Sig. Sebastiano Rizzi'. The date of the letter is of importance as it gives a terminus ante quem for the present drawing, which was probably executed not long before as it is most likely that Watteau showed to Ricci and his patron Crozat his most recent production.

Watteau's drawing contains five studies of what appear to be two different children: the left and right sketches on the upper level are of the same young girl resting her folded arms on a tabletop; the child in the centre - a small boy - reappears bottom left without his hat, and probably in the final sketch as well, though his hair is parted differently and his costume is left undefined. Malcolm Cormack (op. cit.) has suggested the sitters may have been children of the Sirois family whith whom Watteau stayed on many occasions. Watteau seems to have drawn the same models in a few other drawings. The little boy reappears wearing a cap in two sheets also dated circa 1716 (Rosenberg and Prat, op. cit., nos. 408-9), while the young girl is drawn again with her arms on a table top in a drawing in a private collection (op. cit., no. 450).

The amusing central sketch of the smiling boy in a cap was used by Watteau for one of his figures in Les Champs-Elysées, a painting dated circa 1716 in the Wallace Collection (Fig. 3). The boy resting his head on his arm lower left in the present drawing was etched in the same direction by P.C. Trémolières for Les figures de différents caractères (no. 168; Fig. 2). There exists a counterproof - probably cut from a larger sheet - of the figure of the girl top right (Rosenberg and Prat, op. cit., fig. 440a, p. 730; Fig. 1). The same figure was copied in a sheet now in the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam (op. cit., fig. 440e).

The drawing, once part of the Groult Collection which included some of Watteau's greatest sheets, has long been admired. Alan Wintermute (exh. cat. New York, 1999-2000) praised it for 'bearing several of Watteau's most charming and well-observed studies of children', while Rosenberg and Prat underlined its 'mélange de puissance expressive et de délicatesse, sa maîtrise de la lumière, le charme encore un peu gauche de cette évocation savoureuse.'

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