LANCRET, Nicolas
(b. 1690, Paris, d. 1743, Paris)

Picnic after the Hunt

Oil on canvas, 62 x 75 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

By inventing the genre of hunt picnic, Watteau, Lemoyne, and now Lancret blended the hunting picture with scenes of aristocratic dalliance, the recently developed genre of fête galante. The proximity in date of the examples by Lemoyne and Lancret, and Lancret's subsequent popularisation of the theme, show the degree to which the hunt picnic gave expression to the identity of the aristocracy. Although traditionally the hunt defined this elite class, Louis XV's passion for the sport made it that much more popular with his courtiers and ministers. As exemplified in de Troy pendants - Le Déjeuner de chasse (Musée du Louvre, Paris) and the Mort d'un cerf (location unknown) - the culture of the hunt was characterised by oppositions: bloodshed and a celebration of the harmony of nature. Lancret, however, oriented his depictions of the theme almost exclusively toward the pleasant rituals surrounding the hunt.