PERUGINO AND HIS ANGELS from the Jacquemart-Andre Museum Exhibition
November 17, 2014
ROCOCO ART AND THE ANGELS OF WATTEAU
April 3, 2014
The Jacquemart-Andre Museum in Paris is currently hosting a beautiful exhibition of paintings and drawings by Antoine Watteau.
Little is known of the life of Watteau, yet he changed art history forever with his signature, sublime paintings of ‘les fetes galantes’: elegant scenes of aristocrats courting and frolicking out of doors, framed by muted green foliage. Venetian and Flemish painters had explored the genre before, but Watteau made it his own in the Pilgrimage to Ile of Cythera, a dreamy, moody tableau. A palette of tender pastels adorns the characters - men cajoling beautiful women who coyly smile, feign resistance or happily capitulate under the spell of Venus, her statue presiding discreetly amongst the trees on the right. Like graceful marionettes infused with a certain melancholy, they act out their carefree pursuits, a mirror of high society.
It was the age of Rococo, a curvy, fanciful style which would pervade the fine arts and the decorative arts, prevailing principally during the reign of Louis XV. Emblematic of ‘la vie en rose’ –life through rose-colored spectacles - the style would gradually fade away with the onset of the French Revolution and the thud of the guillotine.
Watteau submitted his masterpiece to the Royal Academy in 1717 to gain formal acceptance to this prestigious group, essential to an artist’s success. The jury recognized its originality and created for it a new categorization, ‘les fetes galantes’. A trend was born, to be followed but never truly equaled by lesser painters. Later Fragonard and Boucher would re-interpret it in beautiful, large paintings with a more libertine tone.
Winged cherubs flit about Watteau’s tableau on the left, adding an innocent touch to the games of seduction.