The French Comedians

Antoine Watteau French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 629

The costumes and repertoire of French comedians was distinct from Watteau’s favored Italian commedia dell’arte. This painting’s principal male figure is dressed in an old-fashioned, formal costume that in the eighteenth century would have been appropriate for a subject from antiquity. Typical of Watteau, the scene is entirely imaginary and does not align with any known opera or play. The entrance from backstage of Crispin, one of the stock characters from the commedia dell’arte, underscores the improbability of the scene. Infrared reflectography shows a preparatory underdrawing on the canvas, probably by a specialist architecture painter, a practice Watteau often employed to create such stagelike spaces.

#5220. The French Comedians

The French Comedians, Antoine Watteau (French, Valenciennes 1684–1721 Nogent-sur-Marne), Oil on canvas

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