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New Exhibition at Metropolitan Museum Explores Influence of Music and Theater on the Work of Watteau and His Contemporaries

Exhibition Dates: September 22 – November 29, 2009
Exhibition Location: European Paintings, Gallery 2, 2nd floor
Press Preview: Monday, September 21, 10:00 a.m. –noon

Watteau, Music, and Theater, the first exhibition of paintings by the great early 18th–century French painter and draftsman Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721) in the United States in 25 years, is currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art through November 29. The exhibition explores the place of music and theater in the work of the artist, comparing 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. Showing that the painter's utopian vision was influenced directly by these sister arts, it sheds light on a number of Watteau's pictures.

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.

Watteau, Music, and Theater features more than 60 works of art, consisting of major loans of paintings and drawings by Watteau and his contemporaries from collections in the United States and Europe, in addition to material drawn from various departments of the Metropolitan Museum, including musical instruments, porcelain, and prints.

Watteau, Music, and Theater honors Philippe de Montebello, Director Emeritus of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Jean-Antoine Watteau, widely considered the most important artist in France and possibly all of Europe in the early 18th-century, is among the best known and least understood of the Old Master painters. Born in 1684 in Valenciennes in the Hainault (French, but formerly part of the Spanish Netherlands), Watteau was the son of a roofer and probably received limited formal education before he arrived in Paris in 1702. This solitary, ill-educated, self-taught, largely itinerant figure was a supremely gifted painter and draftsman whose surviving works of art are his testament. Most of them are so-called fêtes galantes, idyllic scenes that have no specifically identifiable subject. Only one of Watteau's paintings, The Embarkation for Cythera (1717), was publicly exhibited in his lifetime. His career is little documented, he did not sign or date his paintings, and few commissions are recorded. His paintings and drawings, however, reveal a fascination with the performing arts of both music and theater. Watteau died in 1720 at the age of 36 after a long illness.

While relatively little is known about Watteau, an expanding body of literature on Paris opera-ballet, plays, and the less formal and more traditional seasonal théâtres de la foire relates to specific works in the exhibition, and can now be mined more deeply to examine the artist's life and work.

Among the many highlights of Watteau, Music, and Theater are the Metropolitan Museum's Watteau paintings Mezzetin and French Comedians; the Städel Museum's The Island of Cythera; Pleasures of the Dancefrom the Dulwich Picture Gallery; Love in the French Theater and Love in the Italian Theater, both from the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin; and The Alliance of Music and Comedy (private collection), which has not been on view in any museum in decades.

The exhibition marks the first time that the painting La Surprise (private collection) is on view in a museum. Lost for almost 200 years and presumed to have been destroyed, La Surprise was rediscovered last year in a British country house and sold at auction.

Exquisite drawings by Watteau, including works from the Art Institute of Chicago, The Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, Massachusetts, and The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, are also featured.

Other lenders to the exhibition are the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran (National Trust for Scotland); Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Schloss Sansoucci, Potsdam (Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg); Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; and National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Pictures by Lancret are from Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, Dallas; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

The exhibition also includes works by contemporaries of Watteau, including Nicolas Lancret and Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Pater, who were influenced by him; fine drawings and engravings by other 18th-century European artists; Meissen porcelain figures depicting theatrical characters; and musical instruments of the era, including a rare Musette de Cour, or early bagpipe, from the Metropolitan Museum's collection.

Exhibition Credits and Publication
The exhibition is organized by Katharine Baetjer, Curator in the Metropolitan Museum's Department of European Paintings, with Georgia J. Cowart, Professor in the Department of Music at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue Watteau, Music, and Theater, edited by Katharine Baetjer, with an introduction by Pierre Rosenberg, de l'Académie française, Honorary President-Director of the Musée du Louvre, and an essay by Georgia J. Cowart. Other contributors to the catalogue are Katharine Baetjer, Jayson Kerr Dobney, Jeffrey Munger, and Perrin Stein, all of the Metropolitan Museum; Christoph Martin Vogtherr, curator at The Wallace Collection, London; Kim de Beaumont, Esther Bell, Mary Tavener Holmes, and Anna Piotrowska.

The catalogue is for sale in the Museum's bookshops ($35.00).

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

Education and Concert Programs
An array of educational programs complements the exhibition, including gallery talks, documentary film screenings, and a Sunday at the Met program on October 25 featuring a talk by Georgia J. Cowart and a musical demonstration by Robert Mealy and Friends. "Watteau and Music: Dance, Seduction, Allusion, Mystery," a concert with Paula Robison and friends featuring music by Rameau and Couperin will take place on November 7 in the Museum's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. "Watteau and Words: A Reading of French Poetry" with Philippe de Montebello will take place on November 19, also in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium.

The concert program is made possible by Mr. and Mrs. David T. Schiff.

Audio Guide
An Audio Guide of commentary by Metropolitan Museum Director Thomas P. Campbell and music from early 18th century France is available for rental ($7, $6 for members, and $5 for children under 12).

The Audio Guide is sponsored by Bloomberg.

The exhibition and its related programs will be featured on the Museum's website at www.metmuseum.org.


September 21, 2009



Lecture and Reading Watteau and Words: A Reading of French Poetry
Philippe de Montebello, Director Emeritus, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Fiske Kimball Professor in the History of Culture and Museums, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

Philippe de Montebello speaks about Antoine Watteau's painting Mezzetin (1718–20) in the Museum's collection and reads poems by writers whom Watteau inspired—notably Théophile Gautier, Albert Samain, Paul Verlaine, and Marcel Proust—along with other works that provide a brief anthology of French poetry from François Villon (1431–ca. 1463) to René Char (1907–1988). As he reads in French, the original text of the poems and their English translation are projected on a screen so the audience can follow along.

Thursday, November 19, 6:00: $25
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium


Watteau and Music: Dance, Seduction, Allusion, Mystery
Paula Robison, flute
John Gibbons, harpsichord
Frederic Hand, lute and guitar

Paula Robison and friends present a concert of the music of Rameau and Couperin.

Saturday, November 7, 6:00: $23
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium

For subscription program tickets call (212) 570-3949, Monday–Saturday, 9:30–5:00, and Sunday, 12:00–5:00. You may also visit the Concerts & Lectures box office in the Museum's Great Hall, Tuesday–Saturday, 10:00–5:00, and Sunday, 12:00–5:00, or go to www.metmuseum.org/tickets.


Both concerts occur in Gallery Sixteen, European Paintings, second floor.

Les Charmes de la Vie: Baroque Music from the Time of Watteau
REBEL Ensemble for Baroque Music
Wednesday, October 14, 3:30

Music for a Fête Galante
Ensemble "Les Plaisirs de Versailles" led by violinist Robert Mealy performing on the Museum's 1693 violin by Antonio Stradivari.
Thursday, November 12, 3:30


Sunday, October 25
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium

The afternoon explores the place of music and theater in Watteau's art and the tension between an imagery of power, associated with the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV, and a more optimistic and at times subversive imagery of pleasure, developed in opera-ballet and theater in the first years of the eighteenth century.


Music and Theater in Watteau's Paris
Georgia Cowart, professor, Department of Music, Case Western Reserve University

Musical Demonstration
A short music and dance demonstration by Robert Mealy and Friends, highlighting a 1693 Stradivari violin in the Museum's collection.


Meet at exhibition entrance, European Paintings Galleries, second floor.

Wednesday, September 30, 11:00. Katharine Baetjer
Friday, October 30, 11:00. Véronique Sintobin
Thursday, November 19, 10:00. Véronique Sintobin


The depiction of music making figures prominently in the art of Watteau and his contemporaries, yet many museumgoers have never heard the music that these canvases evoke. The Audio Guide, narrated by Metropolitan Museum Director Thomas P. Campbell, serves as a musical accompaniment to the exhibition, featuring performances of music by composers such as François Rebel, Francesco Corbetta, and François Couperin, who set the tone of the early eighteenth century.

The Audio Guide is available for daily rental: $7.00 for the general public; $6.00 for Museum Members; $6.00 for groups of 14 or fewer; $5.00 for children under 12; $4.00 for groups of 15 or more.


These screenings are held in Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall, Uris Center for Education.

100 Great Paintings: Processions—The Embarkation for the Island of Cythera (1982), Anita Crum, director. Brief analysis of Watteau's painting (10 min.); Music at the Court of Louis XIV (1986), Tony Cash, director. Discusses music composed by Lully, Delalande, and Couperin (53 min.).
Tuesday, October 13, 2:00
Thursday, October 15, 2:00


Family Orientations—Watteau, Music, and Theater Designed for young visitors and their adult companions, these engaging slide introductions to the special exhibition are followed by lively discussion in the galleries.
Saturday, October 3, 10, 17, and 24, 1:30–2:30 and 3:00–4:00


Art, Music, and Theater
Explore the relationship between art and performance in this interdisciplinary workshop. Using the exhibition as a point of departure, we discuss a range of works representing musicians, dancers, and actors. We then examine the relationships among the arts as well as the means by which artists have visually represented the world of the stage. For information and to register, go to www.metmuseum.org/events/teachers, call (212) 570-3985, or email teachers@metmuseum.org. Instructor: Rebecca Arkenberg
Saturday, November 7, 10:00–1:00, $40


Find Yourself at the Met—The Art of Perfume: Eighteenth-Century France (Ages 15–18) While viewing the Met's collection of eighteenth-century French painting and the exhibition, discuss romanticism, beauty, and the way in which works of art influenced the opulent, romantic style of fragrance during that period. Write a love poem and create a perfume of jasmine, amber, orange blossom, iris, lilac, and tuberose, notes fashionable at the time of Marie Antoinette. To register, call (212) 650-2832 or email teenprograms@metmuseum.org.
Instructor: Alexis Palmer Karl, perfumist
Saturday, November 7, 2:00–5:00


El Museo invita los niños entre cuatro y diez años de edad y sus familias a participar en nuestros talleres educativos. En las galerías charlaremos sobre diferentes temas, y los niños tendrán la oportunidad de aprender y divertirse haciendo dibujos y actividades didácticas.

Nos reuniremos en Carson Family Hall en el Uris Center for Education. Para más información o reservar plaza, por favor llamen al (212) 650-2833 o envíen un correo electrónico al:

La música y el teatro: Jean Antoine Watteau
El sábado 7 de noviembre desde las 11:30 de la mañana hasta la 1:00 de la tarde


"Picture This!" A Workshop for Visitors Who Are Blind or Partially Sighted
This workshop for adults makes artworks in the exhibition accessible through detailed descriptions, touch, and other activities to awaken the senses. This program is free, but places are limited and reservations are required. Please call (212) 650-2010 or email access@metmuseum.org
Thursday, November 12, 2:00–3:30

Audio Guide
The Audio Guide is free to visitors who are blind, partially sighted, or hard of hearing. Audio Guide players have volume controls and headsets. Neck loops for hearing aids with T-switches are available upon request. Regular and large-print Audio Guide scripts are also available upon request.

Other Services
The Museum is committed to serving all audiences. Please call (212) 650-2010 or email access@metmuseum.org about programs and services, including Sign Language–interpreted programs, Verbal Imaging Tours, the Touch Collection, and other programs.


Nolen Library has information about the Museum's collection and special exhibitions, and a Teacher Resource Center with a circulating collection for educators. There is also a Children's Reading Room, a specially designed space for families to read together from books in the library's collection. For hours and further information, please call (212) 570-3788.


Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, www.metmuseum.org/toah, is a chronological, geographical, and thematic exploration of the history of art from around the world, illustrated with over 5,000 works of art from the Metropolitan Museum's collection. To explore the art of Jean Antoine Watteau on the Timeline, go to the thematic essays "Jean Antoine Watteau (1684–1721)" www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/watt/hd_watt.htm.

For further information about our programs, visit the Museum's website at www.metmuseum.org.

Watteau, Music, and Theater
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.
The concert program is made possible by Mr. and Mrs. David T. Schiff.

We are grateful to the following for their support of educational programs:
The Audio Guide is sponsored by Bloomberg.

Free classes for high school students are made possible through the generous support of the Altman Foundation. Additional support is provided by Mr. and Mrs. Marvin H. Schein and the John and Patricia Klingenstein Fund.

Family Programs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art are supported by:
the Uris Brothers Foundation Endowment; the Pat and John Rosenwald Fund;
Mr. and Mrs. Marvin H. Schein; The Aronson Family Foundation; and Epstein Teicher Philanthropies.

El Primer Contacto con Arte ha sido posible, en parte, gracias al patrocinio de: The Goodman Memorial
Foundation, Inc. y The Samuel and Rae Eckman Charitable Foundation, Inc.

Access programs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art are made possible by MetLife Foundation.
Access programs are also made possible by the generous support of the Filomen M. D'Agostino
Foundation. Additional support has been provided by The Ceil & Michael E. Pulitzer Foundation, Inc.,
the Renate, Hans & Maria Hofmann Trust, the Allene Reuss Memorial Trust, The Murray G. and
Beatrice H. Sherman Charitable Trust, the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation, Inc.,
and Jane B. Wachsler.


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