The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Les Charmes de la vie (The Attractions of Life)
  • Antoine Watteau (1684 - 1721)
  • Les Charmes de la vie (The Attractions of Life)
  • France
  • c. 1718 - 1719
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 67.3 x 92.5 cm
  • P410
  • Small Drawing Room
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • "Les Charmes de la vie" is one of Watteau's classic Fêtes galantes, describing ideal sociability around music, conversation and flirting.
    Watteau explored similar compositions in two other paintings, an earlier "Fête Galante with a Bust of Bacchus" in Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam, and "Pour nous prouver que cette Belle" in the Wallace Collection (P377). The painting in Potsdam is the first version because its composition can be seen in the x-rays of "Les Charmes de la vie" in the first outline on the canvas. Watteau then added the architecture, exchanged and added several figures - most notably the standing man on the left, the painter Nicolas Vleughels (1668-1737). Watteau and Vleughels lived together in 1718/1719 which is the most likely date for "Les Charmes de la vie". The smaller painting P377 was probably painted between the two larger versions.
    The overall composition of the paintings in Potsdam and at the Wallace Collection is based on David Teniers's "Self-portrait with His Family" (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie). The references to the older Flemish work became even more obvious in the later version at the Wallace. Watteau also added quotes from works after the Italian seventeenth-century painter Francesco Albani and after Rubens: It is likely that these references to the Old Masters reflected his new status as a member of the Academy from 1717.