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

Fêtes Vénitiennes

Oil on canvas, 56 x 46 cm
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Antoine Watteau brought the fête galante to its highest point when he created a mysterious, melancholy, dreamlike world populated by well-dressed people who flirt and play gracefully in parklike surroundings. The pastoral setting emphasizes the essential innocence and spontaneity of the participants, who are unafflicted by the stiffness imposed by the conventions of formal society. Eroticism is subtly rather than openly expressed. Fête galantes continued to be depicted by Watteau's pupils Nicolas Lancret and Jean-Baptiste Pater. The fête champêtre and fête galante ended with the termination of the Rococo period in the late 18th century.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 10 minutes):
Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto for recorder in A minor