The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
A Woman at Her Toilet
  • Antoine Watteau (1684 - 1721)
  • A Woman at Her Toilet
  • France
  • c. 1717 - 1719
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 45.2 x 37.8 cm
  • P439
  • Small Drawing Room
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • The painting is one of Watteau's rare female nudes. The figure of the seated woman is based on a vivid life drawing by the artist (British Museum). Watteau and the Comte de Caylus, one of the most important amateurs of the period, together made drawings after hired female models in a rented room, because models at the Academy were all male. While this practice was already unusual, the painting is extraordinary for showing a female nude in a temporary environment, outside the context of history painting. This concept only became more acceptable in the later eighteenth century. The bed, however, is an entirely imaginary piece of furniture taking elements from the bed depicted in Rembrandt's "Danae", a painting that was probably already in Paris at the time. This detail indicates that Watteau was keeping a fine balance between the directly observed and the idealised.