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Mezzetin (<i>Mezetin</i>)

The exhibition is made possible by The Florence Gould Foundation.

It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The catalogue is made possible by the Drue E. Heinz Fund.

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Music and Theatre in Watteau's Paris

Program information

The exhibition Watteau, Music and Theater, presented in honor of Director Emeritus Philippe de Montebello, explores the place of music and theater in the work of the great early eighteenth-century French painter and draftsman Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). The works compare the imagery of power associated with the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV, with a more optimistic and mildly subversive imagery of pleasure developed in contemporary opera-ballet and theater.

Georgia Cowart, a scholar of Watteau and the music and theater of his time and author of The Triumph of Pleasure: Louis XIV and the Politics of Spectacle, discusses the subversive and political culture of pleasure in Parisian opera and theater during the waning years of Louis XVI, describing the period as one in which arts and culture were liberated from the Sun King's grasp. Lighthearted comedies and spectacles, often with satirical undercurrents, contributed to an erosion of class distinctions—spectacle had been the domain of the King. As the power of Versailles began to wane, at a moment of and political and religious unrest and deepening economic depression, Watteau's images captured a new Parisian worldview, and speak to the rise of a new public in France.

Georgia Cowart, Professor, Department of Museum, Case Western Reserve University; introduced by Jayson Dobney, associate curator, Department of Musical Instruments, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Learn more about eighteenth-century France on the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History:
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=09&region=euwf

Watteau, Music, and Theater

September 22–November 29, 2009

Accompanied by a catalogue

The exhibition, in honor of Director Emeritus Philippe de Montebello, explores the place of music and theater in the work of the great early eighteenth-century French painter and draftsman Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721). The works compare the imagery of power associated with the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV, with a more optimistic and mildly subversive imagery of pleasure developed in contemporary opera-ballet and theater. It shows that the painter’s utopian vision was influenced directly by these sister arts and sheds light on the subjects of a number of Watteau’s images. In addition to material drawn from various departments of the Museum, including musical instruments, porcelains, and prints, there are a number of major loans of paintings and drawings by Watteau and his contemporaries from other collections in the United States and Europe.

Left: Jean-Antoine Watteau (French, 1684–1721). Mezzetin (Mezetin). Oil on canvas; 21 3/4 x 17 in. (55.2 x 43.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Munsey Fund, 1934 (34.138)