The Fair at Bezons

Jean-Baptiste Joseph Pater French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 629

Pater’s painting, already described as his masterpiece in the eighteenth century, depicts an annual fair held on the outskirts of Paris with some 170 different figures. During a period when popular entertainment regularly influenced high culture, the fair at Bezons inspired a play, a ballet-pantomime, and several artworks. People from all classes enjoy the festivities, food, and informal entertainments, which include musicians and a performing monkey on stage. The idyllic, make-believe atmosphere derives from the work of Antoine Watteau, who himself had looked to fair scenes by Peter Paul Rubens. The dancer at center may be Marie-Anne Botot d’Angeville, a famous comic actress; behind her to the left is Pierrot, a stock character from the Italian commedia dell’arte often found in paintings by Watteau.

The Fair at Bezons, Jean-Baptiste Joseph Pater (French, Valenciennes 1695–1736 Paris), Oil on canvas

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