Watteau, peintre de fêtes galantes

© Martin Eidelberg

Created February 2022; revised April 2024


Most of Watteau’s celebrated paintings are fêtes galantes. His art is so closely associated with that short, simple term that we scarcely question its aptness, yet the term merits serious consideration.1 When Shakespeare’s Juliet asked “What’s in a name?,” she posed the question rhetorically.2 The idea that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet is certainly a poetic thought, yet names have great significance. The way that they define objects or concepts can be insightful, and their etymology often reveals unsuspected patterns of thought. In this essay, I wish to consider both the term itself and the epithet “peintre de fêtes galantes” that has traditionally been associated with Watteau.

There certainly is agreement today as to what constitutes a fête galante. The description of such a painting is summed up in the unsurpassed, enchantingly florid passages from Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, originally written in the 1880s.

The great poet of the 18th century is Watteau. A world, an entire world of poetry and fantasy, issuing from his mind, filled his art with the elegance of a supernatural life. An enchantment, a thousand enchantments arose, upon wings, from the whims of his brain, from the humours of his artistic practice, from the absolute originality of his genius. . . .

All the fascination of women in repose: the languor, the laziness, the idleness, the abandonment, the mutual leanings upon one another, the outstretched limbs, the indolence, the harmony of attitudes, the delightful air of a profile bowed over a lute, studying the notes of some gamme d’amour, the breasts’ receding, elusive contours, the meanderings, the undulations, the pliancies of a woman’s body, and the play of slender fingers upon the handle of a fan, the indiscretion of high heels peeping below the skirt, the chance felicities of demeanour, the coquetry of gesture, the manoeuvring of shoulders, and all that erudition, that mime of grace, which the women of the preceding century acquired from their mirrors.3

1. Antoine Watteau, Les Plaisirs d’amour, oil on canvas, 61 x 75 cm. Dresden, Gemäldegalerie.


The Goncourt brothers’ text, both in the original French and in Robert Ironside’s free translation, brings to mind Watteau paintings such as Les Plaisirs d’amour in Dresden. In a sun-filled landscape, elegant couples are nonchalantly disposed in the verdant meadow, love is in the air. It fulfills all our expectations of what a fête galante should be, yet the  Goncourt brothers, with one exception, never employed that name. Rarely did other writers of that era use that designation, whereas it immediately comes to mind today. Despite the voluminous literature on Watteau and his followers, an intriguing question is how such Utopian visions came to be called by that name. As we will discover, the process followed a circuitous route, and ultimately resulted from a curious error.

                                                     THE FIRST FÊTES GALANTES

It is fitting that the first work of art to be termed a “fête galante” was none other than Watteau’s beautiful Le Pèlerinage à l’île de Cythère. On August 28, 1717, when the artist was officially received as a full member by the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, his morceau de réception was first listed as “représentant Le pelerinage a l’isle de Cithere.” Then the title was struck through and replaced by “une feste galante.”4 This correction or emendation marks the moment when the term was first applied to a painting.

“Fête galante” was a relatively new phrase. Each word had existed on its own but they were not conjoined. For example, the phrase “fête galante” does not appear in Antoine Furetière’s famous 1690 dictionary, although the individual components do.5

As could be expected, the primary meaning of “Feste, ou Fête” was a “solemnité ou rejouïssance qu’on fait dans l’Eglise, ou parmy le peuple, en l’honneur de quelqu’un.” For the greater part, the word was employed in an ecclesiastical context, although it could also be applied to royal events (“une rejouïssance que le peuple fait aux entrées, aux naissances des Rois, &c.”) and as well to pagan rites (“Les Payens avoient aussi leurs Festes, les Bacchanales, Saturnales, &c.”).6

According to Furetière, “galant” had several meanings: “Homme honnête,” “un homme qui a l’air de la Cour,” and perhaps most apropos, “Amant qui se donne tour entier au service d’une maitresse.”7 This amatory sense was made explicit in a definition offered at the end of the seventeenth century by Olivier Patru: “galant signifie Amant, ce qui emporte presque toujours qu’on est favorisé, C’est son galant. En ma jeunesse on disoit c’est son ami. Depuis Galant prit sa place, & maintenant ami est revenu à la mode. Galant se dit pourtant encore, ayant paru dire les choses un peu trop ouvertement.”8 L’Europe galante, an opéra-ballet by André Campra and Antoine Houdar de la Motte, first performed in 1697, received its title because its four entrées portrayed tales of love set in four different European countries. The currency of the adjective was also underscored in 1674 with the publication of the newspaper, the Mercure galant—“Mercurereferring to the god Mercury’s association with delivering news, and “galant” referring to its emphasis on news about the court and elegant society.

The two words—“fête” and “galante”—had been occasionally coupled in the last years of the seventeenth century, but apropos of actual events and not in relation to a painting. The origins of the phrase can be traced to the mid-seventeenth century. Possibly the very first instance occurred, as has been noted, in Mademoiselle de Scudery’s Promenade de Versailles: “C’est assurément une belle et agréable chose . . . de voir le Roy en ce beau désert, lorsqu’il y fait des petites festes galantes ou de celles qui étonnent par leur magnificence.”9 Just such an event was staged in 1673 at Versailles. Titled Les Plaisirs de l’isle, it was advertised as containing comedy, music, “machines,” fireworks, and “festes galantes.”10 In Thomas Corneille’s preface to L’Inconnu (1675), we read, “& comme cet incident n’éloigne pointe l’idée des fêtes galantes du Marquis, je m’en sers pour dénouer plus agréablement l’aventure de la Comtesse.”11

The term was especially employed in the world of theater, opera, and ballet. For example, a ballet titled Venus, feste galante by Antoine Danchet with music by André Campra was performed in January 1698. In May of the same year the ballet Les Festes galantes by Joseph François Duché de Vancy, with music by Henri Desmarets, was staged for Monseigneur, the duc d’Orléans. In these two instances, as in the earlier two examples, the phrase “fête galante” was used to signify a type of courtly entertainment.

Tellingly, the new 1701 edition of Furetière’s Dictionnaire universel had an entry for “fête galante” (tucked away under the many terms associated with “galant”): ”Donner une fête galante, c’est un regal bien entendu, où il entre de la tendresse, de la politesse, & du bon goût.” Although still concerned with amorous pursuit, Furetière’s use has a different meaning than we normally associate with “fête galante.” Nonetheless, its connotation of a love poem does appear in contemporary texts, as in the advice given in the September 1702 issue of the Mercure galant: “Nothing better follows a Fête galante than a tender song.“12

However, the more common sense of the expression signified an outdoor rejouissance among aristocratic amants et maîtresses. In Ortigue de Vaumourière’s L’Art de plaire dans la conversation of 1692, the author wrote:  “Je me plais a décrire une Fête galante magnifique, ou une Action d’éclat faite à la tête de deux Armées.”13 In the years after 1700, the term still retained currency. In the 1703 publication, Recueil de plusieurs pièces d’eloquence et de poësie, we find the phrase “Un jour que dans les jeux d’une fête galante.”14 The term was still employed in the titles of various theatrical pieces, such as one called simply Les Fêtes galantes and presented in Lunéville in 1704.15 Similarly, the term appears in the title of Monsieur ***’s novel, La Lotterie, feste galante, of 1713. The first act of Philippe Quinault’s 1715 Alceste is set in a sea port “orné & préparé pour une Fête galante."16 The currency of the term is significant because it appeared just two years before Watteau’s Pèlerinage was renamed with this modern phrase.

Subsequently the term “fête galante” appeared sporadically and generally in the same context. In 1718 the Nouveau Mercure described a play set in a park in Padua that had been prepared for a fête galante.17 In Delisle’s Arlequin sauvage of 1721, Pantalon speaks of a fête galante.18 Similarly, Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, marquis d’Argens, wrote of French courtship: “il suit sa Maitresse au Bal, à la Comédie; & les Parties de Campagne, les Fêtes galantes, sont des Occasions favorables pour un François amoureux.”19 The September 1721 and December 1729 issues of the Mercure describe fêtes galantes that had just been given.20 A theatrical piece concerning love at the court of an Arab prince was designated a “fête galante” in the 1736 novel, Histoire d’Alburcide.21 Countless other uses of the phrase appear in French plays and spectacles, as well in newspapers. It had gained a firm foothold in the French vocabulary.

The decision to change the title or subject of Watteau’s Pèlerinage a l’Isle de Cythère to Une Feste galante corresponds to the increasing frequency with which actual festive events were so designated. Yet even if the term stems from this linguistic evolution, it is still unexpected. This was the first time the term was applied to a painting. This simple stroke of a pen would, a century later, be of great consequence in defining the art of the eighteenth century.

Surprisingly, the Royal Academy itself promulgated the use of “fête galante.” After first applying it to Watteau’s morceau de réception, the Academy employed the formula again two years later, on March 24, 1719, when Nicolas Lancret was admitted to their ranks with “les tableaux qui luy avoient été ordonnez, représentant une Feste galante.”22 Watteau’s pupil Jean-Baptiste Pater was admitted into that distinguished body on December 31, 1728, with the ponderous title, “Peintre dans le talent particulier des fêtes galantes.”23 Bonaventure de Bar, admitted with a different form of appellation, was nonetheless identified as a “Peintre dans le talent des fêtes galantes” when his death was announced on September 3, 1729.24 When Pater’s death was reported to the Academy, his official title was again invoked: “il était peintre de fêtes galantes . . . .”25 Lastly, an otherwise unknown artist, a Monsieur Porlier, “Peintre dans le genre des fetes galantes” was agréé to the Academy on September 30, 1752.26 In short, the term when applied to art had its origin and official sanction within the confines of the Royal Academy. Even more surprising, as we will see, this usage seems to have been entirely restricted to that one institution and did not appear elsewhere.

                                        WATTEAU, PEINTRE DE FÊTES GALANTES

Watteau, peintre de fêtes galantes.” No one would deny the artist that title, as his name and the genre he created are forever linked. The dedicatory plaque on the monument to Watteau, sculpted by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux and erected in Valenciennes in 1884, reads in part: “à l’occasion du 2e Centenaire de la Naissance du Peintre des Fêtes galantes.”27 But, in fact, this never was his official title, despite the insistence of many scholars, both past and present, that Watteau was officially admitted into the Academy with this appellation. As already indicated, this description was accorded to Pater, and was associated with De Bar and the otherwise unknown Monsieur Porlier. Since Watteau, more than any other painter, can be credited with the development of the fête galante, it certainly would have been an appropriate title for him. Yet, when he was agréé on July 30, 1712, he was listed simply as “le sieur Antoine Watau, Peintre.”28 When he was reçu on August 28, 1717, the Academy’s minutes describe him as “ledit sieur Vatteau Académicien.”29 An additional record, found by Christian Michel among miscellaneous papers of the Academy, confirms that he was received as a standard painter of history without any special title: the Academy “a reçu et reçoit le Sieur Watteau en qualité d’académicien.”30 It also confirms that his morçeau de réception was “un tableau représentant une fête galante.” When Watteau’s death was announced to his colleagues in the Academy on July 26, 1721, he was described as “Monsieur Vattau, peintre, Académicien.”31 In short, Watteau was admitted with the normal, unqualified rank of painter, the same that was given all painters of history.

None of Watteau’s immediate circle claimed that he received the title “peintre de fêtes galantes,” and rightly so. However, others soon did. The obituary notice for Lancret, prepared in 1743 by Sylvain Ballot de Sovot, proclaimed, “M. Lancret fut reçu à l’Académie en 1719, au même titre que Watteau, de Peintre de Fêtes galantes.”32 This idea, which would be frequently repeated over the course of the next two and a half centuries, is incorrect on both counts. As we have seen, Watteau was admitted with the standard title of “peintre.” And according to the Academy’s Procès-verbaux, Lancret was reçu without any special title, although his paintings were described as fêtes galantes.33 Ballot de Sovot’s manuscript was not published at the time and so it had no immediate effect, but it does reveal how quickly would-be historians began to assert the myth. Just before the mid-eighteenth century, Dezallier d’Argenville put this assumption into print, claiming apropos of Watteau that “on le reçut Académicien sous le titre de peintre de fêtes galantes.”34 Around the same time, Henri van Hulst, an amateur of the arts and “honoraire associé-libre” of the Academy, prepared a chronological listing of all the institution’s painters wherein he wrongly listed Watteau as “P. [peintre] de fêtes galantes.”35 In 1755, Jacques Lacombe followed Dezallier d’Argenville’s text, writing that at the Academy, “. . . on le reçut Académician, sous le titre de Peintre de Fêtes galantes.36 In 1757, Pernety made the same misstatement,37 as did Pahin-Champlain de La Blancherie in 1783.38 In a brief biographical note on Watteau prepared by Louis Abels Bonafons, l’abbé de Fontenai, for a publication on the paintings in the collection of the duc d’Orléans, it was declared that “Watteau, qui fut reçu à l’Académie de peinture en qualité de peintre des fêtes galantes, mérita ce titre par le choix de ses sujets.”39 Diderot’s description of Watteau as “le peintre des fêtes galantes & champêtres” reflected this same tendency.

By the mid-nineteenth century, the myth had become institutionalized. The generally authoritative Nagler fancifully claimed that Watteau had received the title “peintre des fêtes galantes du Roi.”40 When Dussieux published a compilation of the names of all members of the Academy, misled by Van Hulst’s list, he too made this claim.41 Likewise, Frédéric Villot’s 1855 catalogue of the Louvre stated that both Lancret and Watteau were admitted into the Academy as “peintres de fêtes galantes.”42 When Montaiglon published Mariette’s Abecedario, he rightly refuted Mariette’s error that Watteau had been made a professor at the Academy, but then Montaiglon made the equally egregious mistake of repeating the claim that Watteau had been received “comme peintre de fêtes galantes.”43

This misunderstanding became a trap that caught a surprisingly large number of distinguished scholars. Charles Blanc’s important study on Watteau, Lancret, Pater, and Boucher continued the myth in the very title of the book: Les Peintres de fêtes galantes. In the course of his text, Blanc wrongly proclaimed that Watteau had received that academic honorific.44 Whereas the de Goncourt brothers never made that claim, Houssaye’s essay on Watteau, published in 1860, stated the by-then standard misinformation.45 Michiels claimed that both Watteau and Pater received the title “peintre de fêtes galantes.”46 The Danish scholar Hannover likewise erred in stating that this was Watteau’s official title.47 This epithet became so widespread that Watteau’s name and title became interchangeable. It is small wonder that the 1884 publication celebrating the erection of Carpeaux’s monument to Watteau bore the title Fête du bicentenaire du Peintre des Fêtes Galantes.

Little changed in the early twentieth century. Gabillot’s 1907 publication on Watteau, Pater, and Lancret was entitled Les Peintres de fêtes galantes. That tells all. The scholars very first sentence proclaims, “Trois artistes, Watteau, Pater et Lancret reçurent ce titre de l’Académie de peinture,” and the appended footnote arrogantly chastises Charles Blanc for having wrongly added Boucher’s name to the list. In these same years, Edgcumbe Staley also miscredited Watteau with the fanciful academic title.48 During the next few decades, fewer scholars misconstrued the circumstances of Watteau’s admission into the Academy but, nonetheless, the myth of his supposed title lingered on and most eminent scholars still succumbed to the erroneous tradition. Mussia Eisenstadt proclaimed that the Academy named him “master of the fête galante.”49 In her fundamental monograph on Watteau, Hélène Adhémar wrote, “Watteau est le premier artiste à qui on ait donné ce titre de peintre de fêtes galantes . . . .50 Still today, many leading scholars repeat the same mistake. Grasselli wrote that “Watteau was admitted to the Academy as a painter of fêtes galantes, a category invented especially for him.”51 Likewise, Perrin Stein has written that Watteau “was ultimately accepted with the unprecedented title ‘painter of fêtes galantes.’”52 In similar fashion, Pierre Rosenberg, Anita Brookner, Marianne Roland Michel, Nicole Parmantier, Humphrey Wine, Colin Eisler, Mary Tavener Holmes, Renaud Temperini, and others have proclaimed that Watteau was accepted into the Academy with the title “peintre de fêtes galantes.”53 Myth has a remarkable tenacity. Once published, even the most obvious error becomes difficult to expunge.54

                                                  ALTERNATIVE TERMINOLOGY

The issue of Watteau’s academic title is not merely a factual error, a minor confusion needing emendation. Imbedded within this error is also the explanation of how his and his contemporaries’ paintings came to be called “fête galantes.” Had it not been for the persistent myth that Watteau received the title “peintre de fêtes galantes,” the phrase might have disappeared from the world of art. It managed to survive in other contexts,55 as in literary works such as the Lettres juives of 1738, where it is written: “In France, a lover declares himself openly; he follows his mistress to balls, to the Comedy, country parties, fêtes galantes. . . .” 56 Likewise, in describing a 1747 ballet, Les Fêtes de l’Hymen, the Mercure de France reported that Amour and Hymen were united in a fête galante.57 In Voltaire’s 1745 comédie-ballet, La Princesse de Navarre, one of the characters recites the lines, “Un spectacle assez beau serait encore une fête galante.”58 It still appears at the end of the century, in the 1790 comedy Le Chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, where one reads, ”une petite fête galante arrangée pour notre belle maitresse.”59

Despite the use of the term “fête galante” in these contexts, it was not applied to works of art during the eighteenth century. Instead, a range of alternative terminology was employed. Although a painting might be called “foire champêtre” or “pastorale,” never—as far as can be determined—was the term “fête galante” invoked.

The few Parisian sale catalogues of the first half of the century, as well as estate inventories and other literary and legal documents, reveal some of the alternative designations that were used for paintings. Antoine de la Roque, Watteau’s friend and editor of the newspaper Mercure, described the artist’s pictures as “small gallant scenes, masquerades, fêtes, etc. country weddings.” Although both crucial words, “gallant” and “fêtes,” appear near each other in this short listing, they are not conjoined. Other telling indications of the alternative vocabulary used for art are found in the catalogue prepared for the 1737 sale of the fabled collection of the comtesse de Verrue, a woman known for her libertine spirit and her rich collection of Netherlandish genre works as well as paintings by Watteau and his school. Although she was an avid and outstandingly early patron of fêtes galantes, this term is nowhere to be found in the catalogue of her sale. For example, two of her Watteau pictures were listed simply as “Deux petits tableaux,” just as two by Pater were labeled as “Deux tableaux pendants.”60 Two successive lots of paintings by Pater were described as “Deux tableaux” and “Deux dans la même genre,” but the specific genre was not named.61 More novel descriptive terms were employed for some paintings by de Bar: the first was described as “Un tableau de moyenne grandeur, peint dans la manière de Pater ou Lancret,” and another lot was described as “Deux petits tableaux dans le goût de Watteau.”62 This type of descriptive formula, whereby an artist’s work is identified in relation to that of a more famous artist, corresponds to a formulation used by the Academy. Lancret was listed in a 1737 Academy memorandum among the “Peintres à Talens” with the designation “Pour les petits sujets galants dans le goust de Vatteau.”63

Mariette avoided naming the type of subject that Watteau painted. Curiously, he characterized Claude Audran as a “peintre d’ornemens,” but he remained elusive regarding Watteau.64 Mariette wrote about a number of specific engravings after Watteau’s compositions, referring to each of them generically as “un tableau.”65 When it came to describing the works of Lancret, Mariette deviously called them “sujets dans le goût de Vateau,” as though everyone would understand the reference.66 When Louis Abel Bonafons, l’abbé de Fontenai, compiled the lives of Watteau, Pater, and Lancret, he never employed the term “fêtes galantes” to describe their subject matter; the closest he came was at the end of the life of Pater, where he wrote, “Lencret & lui étoient les deux seuls peintres qui donnoient dans le goût des modes, dont Watteau étoit l’inventeur & le modele.”67 Likewise, one searches in vain for “fête galante” in the art dictionaries published in the eighteenth century. In Marsy’s opus of 1746, listed under “bambochade” is the definition “certains petits tableaux qui représentent des sujets champêtres & grotesques.”68 In effect, Marsy here defined a fête galante without naming it as such.

A term frequently employed in this period was “sujet galant.” As has been mentioned above, as early as 1721 Antoine de la Roque used this phrase in describing the range of Watteau’s subjects. So, too, in 1727 Dubois de Saint-Gelais wrote, “Ce peintre s’est fait un nom par sa gracieuse et exacte imitation du naturel dans les sujets galants et agréables.” Although Dubois de Saint-Gelais enumerated the types of subjects—“les  concerts, les danses, et les autres amusements de la vie civile”—he too avoided the term “fête galante.”

“Sujet galant” appeared occasionally in sale catalogues of the 1730s and ‘40s. Gersaint was one of the first to apply the designation “sujet galant” with some frequency, using it for French and Netherlandish works. In the catalogue he prepared for the 1744 sale of Quentin de Lorangère’s collection, a Watteau painting was described as “Un concert” and a copy after Lancret was listed as “Une danse.” But more frequently he used the expression “sujet galand.”69 A large Lancret and two anonymous Dutch paintings were so described, as were two gouaches by Laurent de la Hyre’s grandson and two (French or Dutch?) works not identified by school. Again, when Gersaint prepared the sale catalogue of Antoine de la Roque’s collection, he listed a Lancret as “un Sujet galant.”70 His insistent reliance on this nomenclature reflects what was by then common usage.

There certainly was no unanimity as to what this new genre of painting should be called. “Galant” was a term often applied to Lancret’s paintings, as when he presented his works at the Exposition de la jeunesse in June 1722; at that time, the Mercure de France described some of them as “divers sujets galans du sieur Lancret.”71 The following year the newspaper described Lancret’s paintings as “dans un goût tout à fait galant.”72 Similar terminology was used again in 1724: “une danse dans un paysage avec tout ce que l’habileté du peintre a pu produire de brillant, de neuf et de galant dans le genre pastoral.”73 For the greater part, the paintings Lancret exhibited at the 1737 and 1738 Salons bore titles that itemized the activities portrayed (Un Festin de Noces de Village, Une danse, Un concert, etc.) but the expression “sujet champêtre” was also employed.74 At the 1744 sale of Quentin de Lorangère’s collection, Lancret’s and Pater’s works were described as “dans le goût des Modes & des Sujets galans, dont Watteau étoit l’inventeur & le modèle.”75 The title of the Life of Watteau which the comte de Caylus read to the Academy in 1748, proclaimed Watteau as a “peintre de figures et de paysages, sujets galants et modernes.”76 Still other terms were available. The marquis d’Argens, also writing in the middle of the century, used the appelation “fêtes champêtres” in describing Watteau’s expertise: “son talent consistait à représenter des bals, des scènes de théâtre et des fêtes champêtres.”77

Eighteenth-century sale catalogues adopted an extremely wide range of alternative forms. These included: “Un Concert dans un jardin,”78 “La vue d’un Paysage champêtre, dans lequel divers personnages, hommes & femmes se sont rassemblés pour se diverter,”79 “Un sujet champêtre dans un paysage agréable,”80 “L’Intérieur d’un Jardin,”81 “Un Bal dans un jardin champêtre,”82 “Conversation dans un jardin,”83 “Deux sujets galans,”84 “Paysages & Figures, représentans des amusemens champêtres,”85 “une fête champêtre.”86 One of de Bar’s paintings was termed “Une Journée champêtre,” and another had the curious designation of “Une fête Francoise.”87

An equally wide range of terminology is found in the inventories of Parisian estates. That from 1740 of the fermier général Martin Havard de Jully refers to “Deux pendants, représentants des Conversations, de Watteau.”88 A 1743 inventory of the collection of the marchand distillateur François Rogeau lists “Promenades et conversations champêtres, . . . de Pater.”89 The 1747 inventory of Elisabeth Guillemette Chesnier contained “Paysages et figures, . . . faits par Octavien...” as well as a “Paysage avec figure, de Lancret.”90 Despite the broad diversity of terms, the one that never appears is “fête galante.”

It comes as a great surprise, then, to find that a German writer, Christian Hagedorn, titled a chapter in his Reflexions “Des tableaux de Conversation, ou des Fêtes galantes.” Although Hagedorn preferred standard terms such as “conversation,” “sujets galants,” and “plaisirs champêtres” for paintings by Watteau and his satellites, he wrote of “les fêtes galantes de Jean George Platzer.”91 Equally surprising, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, Papillon de la Ferté described the Louvre Pèlerinage à l’île de Cythère as a fête galante, as did Gault de Saint-Germain shortly after 1800.92 These are, of course, rare exceptions to the rule. More typical is the Life of Watteau written by the painter Jean Joseph Taillasson, published in 1802; Taillasson used all the terms that had evolved in the previous century: “sujets galants,” “fêtes,” “fêtes à la campagne,” etc., but “fête galante” was noticeably absent.93 


The situation changed little in the early nineteenth century, especially while Neoclassicism still held sway. A linguistic shift did not really commence until the 1830s when Romantic writers, drawn to the charms of the ancien régime, started to apply the term “fête galante” to the paintings of Watteau and his school.94 This began with writers such as Théodore de Banville, Arsène Houssaye, and others in their circle, but even then the term was used only sporadically. As early as 1833, and typical of these Romantic writers, Petrus Borel enthusiastically evoked the art of the Rococo as “les impostes de pastorales d’opéra, de fêtes galantes, de bergères-camargo de l’immortel et délicieux Watteau.”95 The spirit of eighteenth-century fêtes galantes, replete with commedia dell’arte actors, suffused de Banville’s 1842 poem, Les Cariatides: “fête galante, voilà Silvandre et Lycas.”96 Hédouin referred to Watteau in passing as “ce créateur des Fêtes galantes,”97 and Jules Sandeau wrote of “Tous les dessus de porte représentant des fêtes galantes à la manière de Watteau, de Lancret, de Boucher. . . .”98 Remarkably, all these men chose this same term. Where did it come from? It is unlikely that they had read the Academy’s Procès-verbaux. The more likely explanation for the survival (and revival) of this phrase is that it derived from the apocryphal title “peintre de fêtes galantes” that so permeated the literature.

Above all, it was Houssaye who encouraged the taste for the Rococo and helped reestablish the fame of Watteau. His significance was later eclipsed by the de Goncourts’ publications, but Houssaye’s chapter on Watteau in his Galerie de portraits du XVIIIe siècle set the model for the de Goncourts’ work. Its hyperbolic praise and rhapsodic descriptions of Watteau’s spirit are noteworthy:

Watteau fut par excellence le peintre de l’esprit et de l’amour, le peintre des fêtes galantes. . . . Son oeuvre est des plus variées; outre ses mascarades champêtres et ses fêtes galantes . . . .99

In this short passage, Houssaye not only designated Watteau “le peintre des fêtes galantes,” an obvious reference to his supposed academic title, but he described the range of Watteau’s subject matter to include “fêtes galantes.” Several times over in this romanticized, utterly false account of Watteau’s life, Houssaye called Watteau’s paintings, as well as those of Lancret, “fêtes galantes.” He described Lancret as “un disciple qui ressemblait aux gentilhommes de ses [Watteau’s] Fetes galantes.” Houssaye went so far as to claim that Watteau’s paintings inspired fêtes galantes staged at the French court. As an interesting aside, Houssaye’s “Sketches and Essays,” published in 1851, would seem to be the first time that “fête galante” was used in an English language text.100

Théophile Gautier, another leading author in this Parisian literary circle, also had recourse to the term “fête galante.” His Guide de l’amateur au Musée du Louvre announced that “Although he painted only fêtes galantes and subjects taken from the Italian comedy, Antoine Watteau is a great master . . . His oeuvre is a perpetual fête.”101      


Despite the many precedents that have been enumerated here, the term “fête galante” had not yet entered the mainstream of the literature on art. Certainly it lacked universal usage in the mid-nineteenth century.  As has been noted, Charles Blanc titled his book Les Peintres de fêtes galantes, and he consistently referred to Watteau, Lancret, Pater, and Boucher by their supposed academic title, yet not once did he describe these artists’ actual works as fêtes galantes.  For example, he called Pater’s paintings “amusements champêtres, ... bambochades extramuros, ou conversations d’amour, . . . sujets galants . . . .”102 While Blanc described Pater as a “peintre par excellence des conversations et des fêtes galantes,” when discussing works of art on the market he wrote, “aujourd’hui on voit des Conversations de ce peintre . . . .”103  His restrictive use of the phrase “fêtes galantes” to the artists’ supposed epithets is typical of mid-century writings.

Houssaye’s Galerie de portraits was reprinted several times over and was expanded still further in his Histoire de l’art français au dix-huitième siècle, published in 1860. On that occasion, the author repeated the myth of Watteau’s title as “peintre de fêtes galantes” but still avoided that term for his paintings.104 Houssaye’s chapter on Lancret revealed the unresolved nature of his vocabulary: he recorded that he had seen a Lancret of established renown but that it still was not as lively as a Watteau fête galante.105

Remarkably, the term “fête galante” did not appear in ringing words where we might most have expected it, namely in the writings of Edmond and Jules de Goncourt. From the outset, their first essay on Watteau offered a multitude of nouns, but only to describe, not name, what they saw: “les séductions de la femme au repos,” ”une féerie,” “la langeur,” “l’abandon,” “des bois galants,” “des champs emplis de musique.”106  Once and only once in their essay on Watteau did they actually use the term “fête galante”: “je ne sais quelle tristesse musicale et doucement contagieuse est répandue dans ces fêtes galantes.”107 Despite their seductive cascades of words and poetic phrases, “fête galante” does not appear again. Likewise, they seem to have almost never used the phrase in their Journal, except once, in 1855, when they saw an engraving after a composition by Lancret which they described as a “fête galante.”108 In Edmond de Goncourt’s catalogue raisonné of Watteau’s works the phrase is conspicuously absent.  Even though the catalogue is arranged by subject matter, all those works that we today would call “fêtes galantes” are grouped under the rubric “pastorales galantes.”109 The terms employed in Edmond’s text are familiar alternatives such as “scènes galantes,” “fêtes champêtres,” and “la peinture galante.”110

One might have had other expectations.  For example, the great poet Paul Verlaine composed a poem, initially titled “Fêtes galantes,” evoking eighteenth-century “masques et bergamesques” set under the “calme claire de lune de Watteau.” But then in the course of editing he changed the description of the moon, eliminated Watteau’s name and substituted “triste et beau;” also he renamed this poem “Claire de lune” and transferred its original title to the entire collection of poems.111 It is significant that he wrote these poems after meeting and being inspired by the de Goncourt brothers.

We might have thought that by this time the term would have had sufficient meaning and resonance, yet, as has been seen, neither the de Goncourt brothers nor any of the other late nineteenth-century writers on Watteau used it to describe the master’s paintings. Jules Guiffrey in his small monograph on Lancret preferred terms such as “fête champêtre” and “conversation galante,” only once succumbing, almost accidentally, to admitting “fête galante.”112 Michiel’s authoritative ten-volume Histoire de la peinture flamande devoted chapters to Watteau and Pater, as well as the Watteaus de Lille, but he too never used the term for their paintings.113

In 1884, on the occasion of the fête du bicentenaire du Peintre des Fêtes Galantes, Watteau’s works were presented under the classification of “pastorale galante.”114 Only once in all the published speeches and testimonials did the term “fête galante” appear.115 Likewise, when d’Argenty and Adolf Rosenberg prepared their monographs on Watteau, they too failed to apply the term “fête galante” to the actual paintings, except once when Rosenberg categorized Le Pèlerinage à Cythère as “ein galantes Fest.”116

Lady Dilke’s French Painters of the Eighteenth Century, published in 1899, represents a transitional moment in the introduction of this term.  Although little read today, this English art historian was highly respected in her time. While she avoids discussion of the titles supposedly given to Watteau and his circle at the Academy, her chapter devoted to Watteau, Pater, and Lancret is entitled, not surprisingly, “The Painters of Fêtes Galantes.”  Several times over she used the phrase to represent a specific category of subject matter, as when she distinguishes between Watteau’s early peasant scenes and his later fêtes galantes, and when she opines that “The Fête galante is not . . . the class of subject in which Lancret’s gifts show to advantage.”117 Yet, despite several other references to fêtes galantes, Lady Dilke did not apply the term to specific works of art.

Another small advance occurred in 1895, in Claude Phillips’ monograph on Watteau.  Not only did he use the term “fête galante” to embrace a general category of subject matter (as he put it, the “ornate fête galante” as opposed to the supposedly earlier “bergerie”), but in one instance he identified a specific painting by this nomenclature, calling the Fête d’amour in Dresden “one of the most fascinating of all the Fêtes galantes. . . .”118

Even after 1900, when the flow of books on Watteau accelerated, there was a reluctance to use this revived term for specific paintings. For example, despite the title of Gabillot’s 1907 publication, Les Peintres des fêtes galantes, and despite the very first sentence of the text repeating the myth of the academic title supposedly given to Watteau and his followers, the author did not apply the term “fête galante” to individual works. He once employed it to describe the general class of Watteau’s  paintings, and another time to denote the type of social event that supposedly inspired Watteau.119  But that is the limit of Gabillot’s terminology.120

Shortly after 1900, Edgcumbe Staley likewise subtitled his small study on the artist, Master-Painter of the Fêtes Galantes, and in this book he declared that one of the three main divisions of the painter’s work was fêtes galantes. Still, he did not apply the term to individual works.121 The following year, in a more expansive monograph, Staley entitled a chapter “Les fêtes galantes,” claimed that “Watteau‘s rank and title in the world of Art was Maistre-peintre des Fêtes Galantes,” and the term is liberally sprinkled throughout his text.122 As an Englishman it was perhaps easier for Staley to seize upon this foreign term to convey a special tone and meaning.  Curiously, though, the phrase was rarely invoked by Staley when cataloguing individual pictures by Watteau and his pupils; rather, he relied on either the engraved titles or the generic forms such as “Une Fête dans un bois,” "Conversation galante,” “Fête champêtre," etc.123

A similar situation occurs in the writings of Joshua J. Foster. He too employed the term in various ways: to describe social activities, the group of painters, and the general class of subject matter.  He broke precedence in one instance when he used the term as the formal title for a picture, namely the Foire de Bezons by Pater now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.124 But for the greater part he too was content to use “Fête champêtre” and “Scene champêtre.” 

The primacy of “fête galante” as the term to define Watteau’s subject matter emerged only gradually in the years just before and after World War I, in such works as Zimmerman’s monograph in the famed Klassiker der Kunst series. Several times over, Zimmerman employed the term “fête galante” to characterize Watteau’s scenes of society, and to set them apart from the artist’s earlier concerns with military themes and the commedia dell’arte.125 This in itself was not new. What has not been noticed is that in the corresponding French edition of Zimmerman’s monograph, issued as part of the Classiques de l’art series, the prefatory essay was perhaps written by a different author, probably French, and here the term “fête galante” assumed a special prominence and éclat:

Des scènes de la comédie italienne aux Fêtes galantes la transition est insensible . . . les Fêtes galantes prennent une evergure autrement vaste avec des toiles comme les Jardins de Saint Cloud . . . , l’Assemblée dans un Parc . . . , la Fête vénitienne . . . , les Charmes de la Vie . . ., l’Île enchantée . . ., les Champs Elysées . . . chefs d’oeuvre du genre, si l’Embarquement . . . ne les éclipsait pas. Toutes ces oeuvres exquises, d’autres encore, constituent les vraies Fêtes galantes dont le nom seul évoque l’Amour . . . 126

The author’s hyperboles of poetic prose are flagrantly cast in the mode of the Edmond de Goncourt passage that is quoted at the beginning of our essay. Indeed, de Goncourt’s name was intoned in the anonymous author’s next sentence. But there is a telling difference. In the thirty years that separate both writers, the phrase “fête galante” had gradually become the name by which Watteau’s paintings could be universally recognized, so much so that it was written, “les vraies Fêtes galantes dont le nom seul évoque l’Amour, la Langeur et la Rêverie.”

In a group of articles that were published in 1921 to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of Watteau’s death, the term “fête galante” still appeared only sparingly, although the so-called Jardins de Saint Cloud in the Prado was described as “Excellent spécimen de cette «fête galante» dont Watteau fut l’inventeur.”127

Just as the literature on Watteau and his era was slow to accept “fête galante” as a standard term, it found even less fertile ground in the auction world. As we have seen, “fête galante” was not employed in eighteenth-century sale catalogues, nor was it used in the nineteenth century, even after it began to appear in the literary world. It would seem that it made its first appearance in a Christie’s sale in London on June 20, 1913, lot 119: “A. Watteau . . . A Fête Galante, with numerous figures, in a woody landscape.” The following year Christie’s again employed the term “fête galante.”128 But auction houses seem not to have employed the term with any regularity until well after World War II.129

In his 1924 monograph on Lancret, Georges Wildenstein still used the old, vague descriptive terms such as “fête champêtre.”130 A few years later, when Ingersoll-Smouse’s 1928 catalogue of Pater's paitings was published in the same monographic series, “fête galante” was an operative term.131 At the very same time, Louis Réau’s 1928 catalogue of Watteau’s oeuvre made the breakthrough and finally classified the artist’s paintings of fêtes galantes under that term.132   

In these years, “fête galante” evidently had begun to enjoy an independent life. The phrase had become sufficiently widespread, so that it was itself a subject to be examined. When Wildenstein stopped to consider the term, in a surprisingly offhand, ahistorical manner, he claimed that to embrace all the many names that would be used for such paintings—sujets comiques, fêtes champetres, sujets modernes—the Academy had created the term “fête galante” and that it was then embraced by Watteau’s contemporaries.133 Beyond creating a false etymology, what Wildenstein did not realize was the arduous journey the term endured until it finally took hold.




1 An earlier version of this essay appeared in Martin Eidelberg and Patrick Ramade, Watteau et la fête galante, exh. cat. (Valenciennes: Musée des beaux-arts, 2004), 17-27. That text has since been expanded, thanks in part to new electronic resources.

2 William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, act 3, scene 2.

3 Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, French XVIII Century Painters, trans. Robert Ironside (Oxford and New York: 1948), 1-2.  

4 Anatole de Montaiglon, Procès-verbaux de l’Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, 1684-1793, 10 vols. (Paris: 1875-92), 4: 252.

5 Antoine Furetière, Dictionnaire universel, contenant generalement tous les mots françois (1690. Paris: 1701), 3 vols., 2: cols. “FES,” “GAL.”

6 This was probably the meaning intended when four drawings by Louis Félix Delue were described as “Fêtes galantes de Saturne & Junon;” see sale, Paris, January 14-23, 1771, lot 48 (January 15).

7 For further analysis of the word “galant” as used in the second half of the eighteenth century, see Mussia Eisenstadt, Watteaus Fêtes Galantes und ihre Ursprünge (Berlin: 1930), 3-9.

8 Olivier Patru, Les Oeuvres diverses de Monsieur Patru de l’Académie françoise, 2 vols. (Paris: 1692), 2: 442.

9 Madeleine de Scudery, Promenade de Versailles (Paris: 1669), 67.

10 Les Plaisirs de l’isle enchantée (Paris: 1673).

11 Thomas Corneille, L’Inconnu (1675. Paris: 1676), “Au Lecteur,” n.p. 

12 Mercure galant (September 1702), 105: “Rien ne peut mieux suivre une Fête galante qu’une tendre Chanson.”

13 Pierre Ortigue de Vaumorière, L’Art de plaire dans la conversation (Paris: 1692), 308.

14 Recueil de plusieurs pièces d’eloquence et de poësie, présentées a l’Académie des jeux floraux de Toulouse (Toulouse: 1703), 91.

15 Émile Dacier, Albert Vuaflart, and Jacques Hérold, Jean de Jullienne et les graveurs de Watteau au XVIII siècle, 4 vols. (Paris: 1921-29), 1: 74-75.

16 Le Theatre de Mr Quinault, 5 vols. (Paris: 1715), 4: 138.

17 Le Nouveau Mercure (October 1718), 111.

18 Louis François Delisle de La Drevetière, Arlequin sauvage (Paris: 1721), 87.

19 Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, marquis d’Argens, Lettres juives, 7 vols. (Amsterdam: 1736-37), 4: 5; also 4: 184-85.

20 Le Mercure (September 1721), 216; Mercure de France (December 1729), 2837.

21 Histoire d’Alburcide, nouvelle arabe (Paris: 1736), 113.

22 Académie royale, Procès-verbaux (1875-92), 4: 280.

23 Ibid., 5: 51-52.

24 Ibid., 5: 63.

25 Ibid., 5: 180.

26 Ibid., 5: 331, 333-35. No painter of this name is to be found in any of the standard biographical dictionaries of artists, but perhaps he is to be identified with the Charles Vincent Porlier who was admitted as a master painter to the Academy of St. Luke on January 21, 1747; see Georges Wildenstein, in Mélanges, 2 vols. (Paris: 1925-26), 2: 217.

27 On this statue, see Dirk Kocks, “Le Monument Watteau de Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux,” in François Moureau and Margaret Morgan Grasselli, eds., Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), le peintre, son temps et sa légende (Paris and Geneva: 1987), 321-28, esp. note 3.

28 Académie royale, Procès-verbaux (1875-92), 4: 150.

29 Ibid., 4: 252. 

30 Paris, École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, mss 40.

31Académie royale, Procès-verbaux (1875-92), 4: 318.

32 Jean Guiffrey, Eloge de Lancret peintre du roi par ballot de Sovot accompagné de diverses notes sur Lancret, de pièces inédites et du catalogue de ses tableaux et de ses estampes (Paris: 1874), 20.

33 Académie royale, Procès-verbaux (1875-92), 4: 280.

34 Dezallier d’Argenville (1745), in Pierre Rosenberg, ed., Vies anciennes de Watteau (Paris: 1984), 48.

35 Henri van Hulst, Tableau chronologique de tous les peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs et honoraires, qui ont été reçus à l’Académie royale de peinture . . . (Paris: 1752).

36 Lacombe (1752), in Rosenberg, Vies anciennes, 95.  

37 Dom Antoine Joseph Pernety, Dictionnaire portatif de la peinture, sculpture et gravure (Paris: 1757), 281-82.

38 Flammès Catherine Claude Pahin-Champlain de La Blancherie, Essai d’un tableau historique des peintres de l’école française . . . (Paris: 1783), 58.

39 Louis Abel Bonafons, abbé de Fontenai, and Jacques Couché, Galerie du Palais royal, gravée d’après les tableaux des différents écoles qui la composent, 3 vols. (Paris: 1786-1808), 3: under "Watteau Le Bal Champêtre."

40 Georg Kaspar Nagler, Neues allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon, 35 vols. (Munich: 1835-52), 23: 550.

41 Louis Dussieux, “Académie de peinture et de sculpture. Liste chronologique des membres,” Archives de l’art français, 1 (1851-52), 329.

42 Fréderic Villot, Notice des tableaux exposés dans les galleries du musée imperial du Louvre, 3 vols. (Paris: 1855), 3: 193. Predictably, Villot did not use the term “fête galante” apropos of paintings by Watteau, Pater, Lancret, or Fragonard, although he described a military subject by Pater as “Une fête champêtre” (3: 255).

43 Académie royale, Procès-verbaux (1875-92), 6: 111, n. 1. The idea that Watteau had held the position of professor at the Academy can be traced to La Roque’s obituary notice.

44 Charles Blanc, Les Peintres des fêtes galantes. Watteau—Lancret—Pater—Boucher (Paris: 1854), 41. 

45 Arsène Houssaye, Histoire de l’art français au dix-huitième siècle (Paris: 1860), 178.

46 Alfred Michiels, Histoire de la peinture flamand depuis ses débuts jusqu’en 1864, 10 vols. (Paris: 1865-76), 9: 427.

47 Emil Hannover, «De Galanter festers maler» Antoine Wattteau, hans liv, hans vaerk, hans tid (Copenhagen: 1888), 40.

48 Edgcumbe Staley, Watteau, Master-Painter of the Fêtes Galantes (London: 1901), 26, 48.  Also Staley, Watteau and His School (London: 1902), 32-33, 53.  In the latter, Staley offered a pseudo-old French form for Watteau’s supposed title: “Maistre-peintre de Fêtes Galantes.”

49 Mussia Eisenstadt, Watteaus Fêtes Galantes und ihre Ursprünge (Berlin: 1930), 9.

50 Hélène Adhémar and René Huyghe, Watteau, sa vie – son oeuvre (Paris: 1950), 105.

51 Margaret Morgan Grasselli, The Drawings of Antoine Watteau: Stylistic Development and Problems of Chronology, Ph.D. dissertation (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1987), 271.

52 Perrin Stein, “Antoine Watteau” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/watt/hd_watt.htm (October 2003).

53. Pierre Rosenberg in The Age of Louis XV—French Painting 1710-1774, exh. cat. (Toledo Museum of Art; Chicago Art Institute; Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada: 1975), 12, 84; Anita Brookner, Watteau (Feltham, England: 1967), 13; Colin Eisler, Paintings from Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools excluding Italian (Oxford: 1977), 297; Nicole Parmantier in Antoine Watteau, 1684-1721, exh. cat. (Washington, National Gallery of Art; Paris, Musée du Louvre; Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg: 1984-1985), 42; Wine, Watteau (1992), 30; Humphrey Wine, “Watteau,” in Jane Turner, ed. The Dictionary of Art, 34 vols. (London and New York: 1996), 32: 917; Marianne Roland Michel, “Pater,” in Ibid., 24: 256; Mary Tavener Holmes, “Lancret,” in Ibid., 18: 692; Renaud Temperini, Watteau (Paris: 2002), 18, 148.

54 An unusual variant was proposed by Cafritz, namely that Watteau was admitted “but only in the secondary category of genre painter;” see Robert C. Cafritz, Lawrence Gowing, and David Rosand, ed., Places of Delight: The Pastoral Landscape, exh. cat. (Washington: National Gallery of Art in collaboration with the Phillips Collection: 1988), 163.

55 In addition to the examples cited in this essay, see Louis de Boissy, Le Français à Londres (1727), in Repertoire générale du théâtre francais (Paris: 1813), 26; Alain René Lesage, Aventures du chevalier du Beauchène (Paris: 1732), 817, 998, 1001; J. de Varenne, Mémoires de chevalier de Ravanne, 3 vols. (Amsterdam: 1782), 2: 111.

56 Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, marquis d’Argens, Lettres juives, 4 vols. (Paris: 1734), 4: 5.

57 Mercure de France (March 1747), 134. The libretto of the ballet was by Louis de Cahusac and the music was by Jean Philippe Rameau.

58 Voltaire [François Marie Arouat], La Princesse de Navarre (Paris: 1745), 21.

59 Jacques Marie Boutet de Monvel, Le Chevalier sans peur et sans reproche ou Les Amours de Bayard (Paris and Avignon: 1790), 36.

60 Paris, sale, March 27ff, 1737, comtesse de Verrue collection, first session, lots 83 and 94 respectively. The Verrue sale catalogue is known only in manuscript form, with differences between the versions. The references here are to the copy in the Frick Art Reference Library, New York.

61 Ibid., lots 16, 17, respectively.

62 Ibid., lot 39; second session, lot 55, respectively.

63 “Mémoire concernant les Académies royales de peinture, sculpture et architecture, 1737, Paris, Archives nationales, o1 1925 A; transcribed in Peter Fuhring, Un Génie du rococo: Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier, 1695-1750, 2 vols. (Turin and London: 1999), 2: 422.

64 Académie royale, Procès-verbaux (1875-92), 6: 105.

65 Ibid., 6: 106-10.

66 Ibid., 3: 55.

67 Louis Abel de Bonafons, abbé de Fontenai, Dictionnaire des artistes, 2 vols. (Paris: 1776), 2: 270; also 2: 7, 760-62.

68 François Marie de Marsy, Dictionaire abrégé de peinture et d’architeture . . ., 2 vols. (Paris: 1746), 1: 53-54.

69 Paris, sale, March 2ff, 1744, collection of Quentin de Lorangère, lots 4 (“Une danse d’après Lancret”), 5 (“Un grand Tableau, sujet galant, d’après le même”), 10 (“Un sujet galand”), 34 (“Un Concert, par A. Watteau”), 36 (“Deux petits pendans, sujets galands, . . . par un Maître Hollandois”), 52 (“Un sujet de conversation champêtre, peint par Pater”), 121 (“Deux autres morceaux peints à Gouasse, par feu M. De la Hire le Médecine, . . . l’autre un sujet galand”), 122 (“Deux autres Sujets galands”).

70 Paris, sale, April 1745, Antoine de la Roque collection, lot 156.

71 Le Mercure (June 1722), 88.

72 Ibid. (June 1723), 1175.

73 Émile Bellier de la Chavignerie, Notices pour servir à l’histoire de l’Exposition de la jeunesse (Paris: 1864), 16.

74 Explication des peintures, sculptures et autres ouvrages de messieurs de l’Académie Royale (Paris: 1737), 19, 21. Ibid. (1738), nos. 67-68, 82-85, 176-79.

75 Paris, sale, March 2ff, 1744, Quentin de Lorangère collection, 197.

76 Caylus (1748) in Rosenberg, Vies anciennes (1984), 53.

77 Boyer (1752), in Rosenberg, Vies anciennes (1984), 93.

78 Paris, sale, December 10-16 1778, Jean-Baptiste Pierre Lebrun collection, lot 109.  

79 Paris, sale, March 20-24, 1787, marquis de Chamgrand, de Proth, Saint-Maurice, and Bouilhac collections, lot 200.

80 Ibid., lot 202.

81 Paris, sale, May 14-23, 1787, Louis Jean François Collet collection, lot 94.

82 Paris, sale, April 8-12, 1783, Leboeuf collection, lot 76.

83 Paris, sale, November 20-December 11, 1777, lot 38.

84 Paris, sale, March 17ff, 1789, Louis François Sorbert (or Saubert) and J. Desmaret collections, lot 77.

85 Paris, sale, December 10-15, 1787, duc de Choiseul or Chabot collection, lot 131.

86 Paris, sale, February 16-17, 1798, Saurin, Lengeac, Veltan, Lebrun, etc. collections, lot 50.

87 Paris, sale, April 9-12, 1781, baron de Vanbaal collection, lot 95; Paris, sale, June 2, 1779, Nagus collection of Poismenu and other brocanteurs, lot 64.

88 Mireille Rambaud, Documents du Minutier central concernant l’histoire de l’art, 2 vols. (Paris: 1964-71), 2: 904.

89 Ibid., 2: 910.

90 Ibid., 2: 931.

91 Christian Ludwig von Hagedorn, Réflexions sur la peinture, 2 vols. (Leipzig: 1775), 1: 382-85, 389.

92 Papillon de la Ferté (1776), in Rosenberg, Vies anciennes (1984), 105; Pierre Martin Gault de Saint-Germain (1808), in Rosenberg, Vies anciennes, 113.

93 Jean Joseph Taillasson (1802), in Rosenberg, Vies anciennes (1984), 109-10.

94 For the Romantics’ rediscovery of the Rococo, see Carol Duncan, The Pursuit of Pleasure: The Rococo Revival in French Romantic Art (New York: 1976); Christoph Vogtherr, Monica Preti, and Guillaume Faroult, eds., Delicious Decadence: The Rediscovery of French Eighteenth-Century Painting in the Nineteenth Century (Farnham, England; Burlington, VT: 2014).

95 Pétrus Borel, Champavert (Paris: 1833), 43.

96 Théodore Faullain de Banville, “Occidentales” (1842), in Oeuvres de Théodore Banville: Occidentales—Rimes dorées—Rondels—La Perle (Paris: 1891), 3: 114.  

97 Pierre E. A. Hédouin, “Watteau,” L’Artiste (November 16, 1845), 45.

98 Jules Sandeau, Sacs et parchemins (1851. Paris: 1855), 14.

99 Arsène Houssaye, Galerie de portraits du XVIIIe siècle, 2 vols. (Paris: 1848), 2: 216-17. This essay on Watteau first appeared in his Le XVIIIe Siècle: Poètes, peintres, musiciens (Paris: 1843), and in “La Peinture au dix-huitième siècle,” L’Artiste (1844), 2: 130-34.

100 See Houssaye’s “Sketches and Essays,” in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 69 (January-June 1851), 727. The Oxford English Dictionary cites this as the first appearance of “fête galante” in English.

101 Théophile Gautier, Guide de l’amateur au musée du Louvre (c. 1865). Paris: 1882), 176-77: “Quoiqu’il n’ait peint que des fêtes galantes et des sujets tirés de la comédie italienne, Antoine Watteau est un grand maître . . . Son oeuvre est une fête perpétuelle.”

102 Blanc, Les Peintres des fêtes galantes (1854), 52.

103 Ibid., 62-63.

104 Arsène Houssaye, Histoire de l’art français au dix-huitième siècle (Paris: 1860), 178-79, 184, 188.

105 Ibid., 204. Houssaye had seen “une des fêtes champêtres les plus renommés mais elle n’est pas encore si vivant qu’une fête galante de Watteau.”

106 Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, “La Philosophie de Watteau,” L’Artiste, ser. 6, vol. 2 (September 1856), 127.

107 Ibid., 129.

108 Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Journal, mémoires de la vie littéraire, 1851-1896, 3 vols. (Paris: 1989), I: 143.

109 Edmond de Goncourt, Catalogue raisonné de l'ouvre peint, dessiné et gravé d'Antoine Watteau (Paris: 1875), 95-184.

110 Ibid., 167, 170, 174.

111 Paul Verlaine, Fêtes galantes (Paris: 1869), 1-2.

112 Guiffrey, Éloge de Lancret peintre du roi, 37, 44 , 46.

113 Michiels, Histoire de la peinture flamand, 9: 364-448.

114 Georges Guillaume, Antoine Watteau, sa vie, son oeuvre et les monuments élevés à son memoire: Fête du bicentenaire du Peintre des Fêtes galantes (Lille: 1884), title page, 44, 64, 86-87, 130.

115 Ibid., 129. It appears in a toast by M. Sauttereau: “de l’artiste enchanteur qui a éternisé le rêve des fêtes galantes.”

116 G. d’Argenty [pseudonymn], Antoine Watteau (Paris: 1891); Adolf Rosenberg, Watteau (Bielefeld and Leipzig: 1892), 18.

117 Emilia Francis Strong, Lady Dilke, French Painters of the Eighteenth Century (London: 1899), 80, 107 respectively; also 81, 91, 111.

118 Claude Phillips, Antoine Watteau (London: 1895), 50, 82; also 34, 60.

119 C. Gabillot, Les Peintres des fêtes galantes: Antoine Watteau; Jean-Baptiste Pater; Nicolas Lancret (Paris: 1907), 8, 10.

120 The same applies to Gabillot’s treatment of Pater and Lancret.

121 Staley, Watteau, Master Painter of the Fête Galante (London: 1901), 23.

122 Staley, Watteau and His School (London: 1902), 53-61.

123 Ibid., 121-52.

124 Joshua James Foster, ed., French Art from Watteau to Prud’hon, 3 vols. (London: 1905-07), 1: 4, 23, 102.

125 Ernst Heinrich Zimmerman, Watteau (Stuttgart and Leipzig: 1912), xvii, xx, xxv.

126 Ernst Heinrich Zimmerman, Watteau (Paris: 1912), xxiv.

127 Marcel Nicolle, “Watteau dans les musées d’Espagne,” Revue de l’art ancien et moderne, 40 (1921), 147.

128 London, sale, Christie’s, January 30, 1914, lot 117: “Watteau . . . Une Fête Galante.”

129 In the years between the two world wars, the phrase occurred only occasionally: e.g., London, sale, Christie’s (June 12, 1925), lot 133; London, sale, Forster (November 2, 1927), lot 262.

130 See, e.g., Georges Wildenstein, Lancret (Paris: 1924), 84, cat. 196, 197, 201, 203.

131 Florence Ingersoll-Smouse, Pater (Paris: 1928), 9-10, 14, 18, passim.

132 Louis Réau, “Watteau,” in Louis Dimier, ed., Les Peintres français du XVIIIe siècle, 2 vols. (Paris and Brussels: 1928), 1: 1-56.

133 Wildenstein, Lancret (1924), 22-25.