Jean-Antoine Watteau was received into the Royal Academy as a “painter of fêtes galantes,” a designation devised especially for him. His paintings are unique for their suggestion of mood, in particular the transitory sensations of love and melancholy. The subtle, erotic grace of this reclining nude is one in which he took obvious delight. The painting is titillating both for the ambiguity of its subject and for the transitions between passages of fine and bold brushwork, which add spontaneity to the intimate moment depicted. Atmospheric light and the union of color create space around the figure. They demonstrate Watteau’s affiliation with the sensual Rubénistes, named after Peter Paul Rubens, over the intellectual rigor of the Poussinistes, named after Nicolas Poussin, whose inspirations derived from classical art.
- Artist Name: Jean-Antoine Watteau (French, 1684-1721)
- Title: Reclining Nude
- Date: c. 1713-17
- Medium: Oil on panel
- Dimensions: painted surface: 5-1/2 x 6-3/4 in. (14 x 17.1 cm); panel: 6 x 6-7/8 in. (15.2 x 17.5 cm)
- Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation
- Accession Number: F.1972.12.P
- Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation
Catherine II, Empress of Russia (1729–1796), gifted to;
Prince Grigori Orlov (1734–1783), by descent in the Orlov family to;
Prince Alexis Orloff (1867–1916), St. Petersburg.
[Richard Owen (1873–1946), Paris, sold 1939 to];
Samuel H. Kress, New York, recorded in 1941 inventory and disposed of by 1945, but likely a gift to;
Private Collection, Paris (possibly Mrs. Delora Kilvert, a close friend of Kress).
[E.V. Thaw and Co., Inc., New York, sold 16 May 1972 to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.
La Surprise: Watteau in Los Angeles
- J. Paul Getty Museum, 2021-11-23 to 2022-02-20
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- Hagstrum, J., Sex and Sensibility: Ideal and Erotic Love from Milton to Mozart,no. 22 pp. 302-303
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- Art Digest, p. 5
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- Posner, Donald, Art Bulletin, pp. 385-388
- Emily A. Beeny, Richard Rand, Davide Gasparotto, Watteau at Work: La Surprise,2021, Plate 7 pp. 37-40, pp. 47-48 (endnote 45), p. 69 ; p. 56 (ill.)
- Frankfurter, Alfred, Art News Annual, p. 64
- Wintermute, Alan, Watteau and His World: French Drawings from 1700 to 1750,fig. 88 p. 138
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