Watteau and His Circle

Boucher Portrait of WatteauThis website is intended to be a vehicle for the dissemination of my research on Antoine Watteau and his contemporaries. 

Over the last forty years I have published studies in a wide range of journals, far too many of which have since disappeared. The freedom of the Internet offers a modern alternative. Admittedly, there is a serious downside. Unlike the printed page, which has at least a promise of security, the Internet is ethereal and threateningly transient.  Nonetheless, it is expedient, bypassing the years of delay that come with regular publishing, and it can be updated when still newer material appears. The flexibility of such a system offers great possibilities.

The scope of this project is specific and narrowly focused. Unlike popular books with ravishing color plates and little content, this website is meant for relatively few but dedicated readers concerned with early eighteenth-century French art. I am reminded of an anecdote about the friend of a colleague who responded to a general archaeology exam question with an incredibly detailed answer about a minor type of Roman provincial pottery. The examiners were bowled over by this man’s extraordinary knowledge on such a minuscule topic, but then asked him why he had expended so much energy on a subject that only three or four people in the world knew anything about. His reply was "I realize that, but with them I have such interesting conversations." My hope is that these essays will find a readership, that they will encourage others’ research, and that they will lead to stimulating conversations on the art of Watteau and his circle.

The first two studies on this website focus on issues concerning paintings and drawings that were once in the collection of Jean de Jullienne, Watteau’s great friend and patron. The third essay considers a painting previously misattributed to Philip Mercier and a drawing once misattributed to Watteau, both of which prove to be by the same artist whom I have christened the Sieste Master. This is followed by an essay that focuses on Nicolas Vleughels and his circle of friends, many of whom were also associated with Watteau. A three-part study explores the paintings and drawings of Bonaventure de Bar. The last article to appear analyzes Philippe Mercier's relationship to Watteau. The newest addition considers a fête galante which has been claimed to be Mercier’s earliest work, but which is by an anonymous artist whom we have named the Miles Master and to whom a considerable number of other paintings can be assigned.

Future essays will be devoted to a wide range of topics: the assistants in Watteau’s shop, pictures that can be associated with an otherwise unidentified painter of fêtes galantes whom I have named the Hulot Master and, finally, the exciting discoveries made in the recent cleaning of Watteau’s painting La Promenade sur les remparts.

Martin Eidelberg
New York