The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Sous un habit de Mezetin
  • Antoine Watteau (1684 - 1721)
  • Sous un habit de Mezetin
  • France
  • c. 1717 - 1719
  • Painting
  • Oil on walnut (?) panel
  • Object size: 27.7 x 21 x 1.5 cm
  • P381
  • Small Drawing Room
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • Pierre-Jean Mariette, a great connoisseur and collector and Watteau's contemporary, identified the subject as the family of Pierre Sirois (1665-1726), art dealer and friend of Watteau. The existence of a drawing for the head of the man in the centre, inscribed ‘Syroie’ (present whereabouts unknown), suggests that it is a portrait of Watteau's friend. The two female heads are sufficently individual in chacter to be portraits and could be identified with two of Sirois's daughters. They are both taken from the same drawing in the British Museum. The male heads - including one on the left that was painted over by the artist - were taken from drawings with more generic figures in theatre costume that appear in several of Watteau's paintings. They are unlikely to be family members. Watteau combined some members of the Sirois family with generic Fête galante characters in theatrical costume.
    The dealer Pierre Sirois played an important part in Watteau's career. In 1709 he bought one of Watteau's earliest independent paintings; from 1719 he published the first prints after Watteau's paintings such as the one after "Pour nous prouver que cette belle" (P377). His son-in-law, the dealer Edme Gersaint was immortalised by Watteau's famous "Shopsign" (Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg).
    Sirois is dressed as the commedia dell'arte character Mezzetin. Right above him appears the architectural sculpture of Pan hinting at an unpredictable and lusty character. This private joke and unusual combination of group portrait and Fête galante suggest that the painting was created as a personal commmissionor even a gift for the artrist's friend.