Monday, January 19, 2015


JEAN-ANTOINE WATTEAU (French, 1684-1721)
Oil on canvas
163 x 308 cm
Charlottenburg Castle, Berlin
Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin Brandenburg

You are entering a shop in Paris.  The year is 1720. You can choose to be a shopper or a shop assistant.  If you are a rich man you need to wear a wig.  If you are an elegant woman you have to wear a fashionable silk dress and pin your hair up with a ribbon.

Take a step up from the cobblestone street into Monsieur Gersaint’s shop.  Don’t trip over the bundle of straw on your left.  It will be needed to pack up the pictures. 
Would you give a hand to the shop assistants who are putting King Louis XIV’s portrait into the wooden crate? (The king had died five years earlier.)  The woman wearing the pale pink silk dress is glancing at the portrait while a gallant man is helping her up the step.  Will she buy the portrait?  What is the color of her stocking?
Take a look at the pictures on the wall and see what you can identify: portraits, landscapes, nudes and stories from the Greek myths.
Where could the glass door lead to: a storage room or office? There seem to be windows on the left.
On the right a standing man is explaining the large oval picture to a couple.  Are they young or a bit older?  They are inspecting the picture with magnifying glasses.
Can you see what the woman is looking at and what fascinates the man?
The woman is taking a close look at the trees.  The man seems so fascinated by the nude’s knee, that he has to kneel on the floor!

On the far right another group of people is being shown a small picture or mirror by a young sales woman.  Do they appear riveted by what they see?  Would it not be funny if they were looking at themselves rather than a painting?
Are you tempted to pull on the woman’s shoe that is peeking out from under her striped silk dress?
What would you buy in the shop, a painting, a clock, a mirror or a box?  Or would you prefer to take home the nice sleeping dog on the right?
The shop seems crowded.  Do you think you fit inside? 
Is it a sunny day or is it overcast?
Where does the light come from?
The silk and white of the suits and dresses capture the light.  The rest of the picture is bathed in gentle browns and beiges.  Is there a lot of color in the picture?
Gersaint was Watteau's dealer.  His shop was on a bridge.  See what it looked like in the 18th century.  Today there are no longer any shops on the bridges in Paris.

Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet
La Joute de mariniers entre le pont Notre-Dame et le Pont-au-Change, c. 1752
47 x 83.5 cm
Oil on canvas
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
The painting is roughly the same length as the shop: about three meters.  
The picture was displayed as a shop sign for fifteen days.  
Originally the canvas was larger and had an arched top.  
Someone cut it in half.   A different painter made it into a rectangle.
The paintings seen on the wall of the shop were not the same as in the shop.  Watteau used his imagination to invent the dealer´s inventory.
The picture was more of an advertisement for Watteau than for Gersaint.
This picture is Watteau’s last masterpiece. 
Watteau took only eight days to paint the picture.
He always thought that his drawings were better than his paintings.