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Rendez-vous de chasse
  • Date: c. 1717–18
  • Object Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 124.5 x 189 cm
  • Inv: P416
  • Location: Billiard Room
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Further Reading
  • The painting was originally conceived as a fête galante, a genre of painting that shows costumed figures in parkland settings. The hunters and their accoutrements, which now transform the scene into a hunting party, were added at a later stage. They were plucked by the artist from earlier sources; the group of gentlemen helping the lady to dismount appears in Jacques Callot’s (1592–1635) famous engraving ‘The Fair of Impruneta' of 1620, the front legs of the horse that are omitted in the painting are hardly visible in the print. The young man standing with a gun and four dogs on the left is copied from an engraving by Pietro Testa (1611–1650). The resulting composition is strangely inconsistent: some figures appear in seventeenth century costume, others in fashionable contemporary dress, and little reference to the hunt is made in either costume or activity. Watteau followed the model of Dutch paintings depicting hunters at rest, such as those by Philips Wouwerman (1619–1668), that were highly fashionable among French collectors. The work initiated a long series of hunting breakfasts painted by French painters throughout the eighteenth century.

    On the basis of an apocryphal letter, supposedly written by Watteau to Jean de Julienne in 1720, ‘Rendez-vous de chasse’ was once thought to have been a wedding gift from the artist to his friend’s wife, a theory that is definitely incorrect. The first certain owner was the Receiver-General of Taxes, Jean-Baptiste Racine de Jonquoy, in whose collection the picture was named in an engraving of 1731 by Aubert. This work and another now in the Wallace Collection, ‘Fête galante in a Wooded Landscape’ (P391), were described as pendants in a series of sales in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including those of the comte de Vaudreuil, Cardinal Fresch and the duc de Morny. Watteau did not intend them as a pair. "Rendez-vous de chasse" was only extended on the left at an unknown moment after 1731 to form a better pair with its present pendant. The two paintings are documented in the same collections from 1787 to 1848 and then since 1865. The 4th Marquess of Hertford had acquired both paintings separately.