Head of a Man, Antoine Watteau (French, Valenciennes 1684–1721 Nogent-sur-Marne), Red and black chalk

Head of a Man

Antoine Watteau (French, Valenciennes 1684–1721 Nogent-sur-Marne)
ca. 1718
Red and black chalk
5 7/8 x 5 3/16 in. (14.9 x 13.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1937
Accession Number:
Not on view
This expressive sheet is a study for the man's head in Watteau's painting Mezzetin, also in the Museum's collection (34.138). Mezzetin was a character in the popular commedia dell'arte, typically amorous and sentimental. In the Museum's painting, he sits on a stone bench outside a building, playing a guitar and gazing plaintively at an unseen window. The artist placed a female garden statue in the woods behind the Mezzetin, its back turned to the actor, suggesting an unrequited love. In this robust red and black study, Watteau established the angle of the head, the uplifted eyes, and the parted lips that were carried over into the painting. In its emotional force and the melding of the two colors of chalk, this sheet recalls the precedent of Rubens, an artist much admired by Watteau.
Jules Niel (French), according to the Biron sale catalogue.; Gabrielle Niel; Guillaume de Gontaut-Biron, marquis de Biron , his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, June 9-11, 1914, lot 63, bought in, (then re-entered the Biron collection, Geneva, and was acquired by the MMA in 1937).
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Pierre Rosenberg, Georgia J. Cowart Watteau, Music, and Theater. Exh. cat. Edited by Katharine Baetjer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, cat. no. 31, pp. 84-85, ill.