Antoine Watteau (Valenciennes 1684 - 1721 Nogent-sur-Marne)
Study of Two Seated Women, circa 1716
Sanguine, 16 x 17 cm
Watteau’s many drawings of women, represented singly, in pairs and in groups, in various pastures, were mostly preparatory studies for the famous fêtes champêtres painted between 1725 and 1720. This drawing of two women nonchalantly reclining is clearly a study for the small painting L’Armante Inquiète of around 1718 (engraved by Aveline in 1729) in the Musée Condé, Chantilly; the figure on the left reappears in this painting in almost identical guise, except that she is holding a bouquet of flowers in her left hand. It was Watteau’s practice to use individual figures in different compositions with slight variations, for the same woman can also be found in Le Concert Champêtre of around 1716 (Angers) in a similar posture, but with crossed arms. The casual reclining position of these two women also suggests a vague affinity with the groups of lovers in Watteau’smost famous work, the Embarquement pour Cythère (Louvre) of 1717. It would, therefore, be reasonable to propose a date around 1716 for this drawing. This study provides an outstanding example of Watteau’s delicate nervous and yet exceptionally precise style of draughtsmanship, which enabled him to capture the most fleeting human gestures and expressions and to give them life and form.