Voulez-vous triompher des belles?... From 'L'Oeuvre d'Antoine Watteau Peintre du Roy Recueil Jullienne', result 1 of 1
This etching - with engraving - is a reproduction of Antoine Watteau's famous painting Voulez-vous triompher des belles? (the translation is a rhetorical question, 'Do you want to succeed with beautiful women?') The original painting is located in the Wallace Collection, London, and dates from c. 1716. The print is Plate 84 from the two-volume L'Oeuvre d'Antoine Watteau, also known as The Recueil Jullienne (published 1735). It is named after Watteau's friend and great admirer, Jean de Jullienne. The quality of the reproductions, using a mixture of engraving and etching following the practice of Rubens's engravers, varied according to the skill of the people employed by Jullienne, but was often very high, as here. Such a comprehensive record of an artist was hitherto unparalleled and helped disseminate Watteau's influence through Europe and into the decorative arts. The inscription on this print includes a dedication to the Comte de Caylus, another Watteau admirer, major collector and antiquarian, as well as a signature-cum-advert for the printmaker, 'A Paris chez Thomassin rue Vivienne à la Biblioteque du Royr'. (Henri Simon Thomassin [1687-1741]). The painting itself has been excellently described in the blog by Douglas Blanchard, 'Counterlight's Peculiars', as follows:
The painting with the probably apocryphal title of Voulez-vous triompher des belles? looks at first glance to be a typical example of Rococo love in the shrubbery. We see silk satin rustling in the dark leaves at twilight as in so many later Rococo paintings (though never was the effect of shimmering silk against dark foliage so beautifully painted as by Watteau). If we look closely at it, there is a mysterious little drama taking place. A couple find themselves apart from the rest of the company beneath an old stone herm covered in vegetation. The man wears a mask and appears to be spooking the woman. She is indeed startled, but not amused as perhaps the man intended. She recoils as he lunges. He wears the costume of a very familiar figure from the Comedia dell'Arte, Harlequin, the trickster and scheming servant. She could be in the costume of Columbine. The people behind them are actors, we assume from the same troupe. They appear to be unaware of what is taking place on the other side of the herm, and busy with their own happy love making. A couple find themselves alone together and go through a very uncertain drama of trying to fathom each other's feelings. The situation is amusing, but with an air of desperation and melancholy about it. The stone herm looming in the dark shrubbery subtly reminds us that the time for youth, love, and life itself is fleeting, as fleeting as the time of twilight in which this little drama takes place.
Dr Mark Stocker Curator, Historical International Art June 2017
after Watteau's painting c.1716 in the Wallace Collection, London
Plate 84 from
Do you want to succeed with women
Harlequin courting a woman at the bottom of a term, in the shadow of a tree; in the background, group playing music and singing
Lettered with names of designer and engraver, dedication to the Count of Caylus, two columns of verses in French, and publication address:
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