This expressive sheet is a study for the man's head in Watteau's painting Mezzetin, also in the Museum's collection (34.138). Mezzetin was a character in the popular commedia dell'arte, typically amorous and sentimental. In the Museum's painting, he sits on a stone bench outside a building, playing a guitar and gazing plaintively at an unseen window. The artist placed a female garden statue in the woods behind the Mezzetin, its back turned to the actor, suggesting an unrequited love. In this robust red and black study, Watteau established the angle of the head, the uplifted eyes, and the parted lips that were carried over into the painting. In its emotional force and the melding of the two colors of chalk, this sheet recalls the precedent of Rubens, an artist much admired by Watteau.
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Jules Niel (French), according to the Biron sale catalogue.; Gabrielle Niel; Guillaume de Gontaut-Biron, marquis de Biron , his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, June 9-11, 1914, lot 63, bought in, (then re-entered the Biron collection, Geneva, and was acquired by the MMA in 1937).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953.
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Réunion des Musées Nationaux - Grand Palais. "Watteau, 1684-1721," October 23, 1984–January 28, 1985.
Schloss Charlottenburg. "Watteau, 1684-1721," February 22, 1985–May 26, 1985.
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Pierre Rosenberg, Georgia J. Cowart Watteau, Music, and Theater. Exh. cat. Edited by Katharine Baetjer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, cat. no. 31, pp. 84-85, ill.
Jean Antoine Watteau's Mezzetin is among the Museum's most evocative works. Katharine Baetjer, curator in the Department of European Paintings, spoke with Associate Email Marketing Manager Jennette Mullaney about this small, striking painting.
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