The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Voulez vous triompher des Belles?
  • Antoine Watteau (1684 - 1721)
  • Voulez vous triompher des Belles?
  • France
  • c. 1714 - 1717
  • Painting
  • Oil on oak panel
  • Size: 35.9 x 27 x 1.4 cm, oak panel
    Size: 35.9 x 25.9 x 0.4 cm, preserved parts of the original panel
  • P387
  • Small Drawing Room
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • In this painting, Watteau fused the idyllic vision of the pastoral with elements of the theatre. The painting is a beautiful example of Watteau's approach to add actors off-stage - half-way between their stage persona and their proper self - to his peaceful and idealised outdoor scenes. Harlequin can be identified by his lozenged suit and black mask. Some of the figures in the background wear seventeenth-century white ruffs and might also be actors. The woman in the foreground has some times been identified as Columbine, a character without a specific costume. Theatre, music and conversation are the main ingredients of the Fête galante. In the background, the lutist and the woman holding a score are about to start making music. Theatre and music imply social interaction and role playing, but Watteau always avoids to create an obvious narrative.The painting plays with the openness and ambiguity of the situation.
    The painting can be dated to c. 1714-1717 on stylistic grounds. Watteau must have painted the small work over an extended period of time. An earlier phase can be seen with the naked eye: Watteau changed the outline and pattern of the dress worn by the seated woman in the foreground. The likely model for the composition, Adriaen van der Werff's "Shepherd and Shepherdess" of 1696, a more idealised pastoral scene, is also at the Wallace Collection (P165).
    Watteau's painting was engraved by Henri Simon Thomassin in 1725. The present title - the first line of a poem that was used with the engraving - does not go back to the painter.