Review of the Met’s Watteau Exhibition and Catalogue

Posted in books, catalogues, reviews by Editor on April 2, 2010

Recently added to CAA Reviews:

Katherine Baetjer, ed., Watteau, Music, and Theater, exhibition catalogue (New York and New Haven: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2009), 176 pages, ISBN: 9780300155075, $35.

Reviewed by Sarah R. Cohen, University at Albany, State University of New York; posting added 24 March 2010.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is ideally suited for an exhibition devoted to the theme of “Watteau, Music, and Theater” because two of Watteau’s most incisive treatments of these themes reside in its collection: the solitary singer “Mezzetin” (ca. 1718–20) and the tragic-comic “French Comedians” (ca. 1720–21). Both works also display Watteau’s ineffable fusion of performance and humanity, artifice and nature, and gestures both rote and heartfelt. The exhibition, rich in drawings as well as paintings loaned from a wide variety of institutions and private collections, allowed viewers to ponder the artist’s compelling transformation of music and theater into an exploratory pictorial language. But only about half of the exhibition featured works by Watteau himself; the rest comprised an eclectic mix drawn largely from the Metropolitan’s extensive collections of eighteenth-century objects, including paintings, graphic arts, porcelain figures, miniature boxes, and musical instruments. . . .

The exhibition catalogue, edited by Baetjer, features an essay on Watteau by Pierre Rosenberg as well as an account by Cowart of the multiple venues where eighteenth-century Parisians could encounter musical theater. Scholarly entries on all of the objects in the exhibition were contributed by the Metropolitan’s curators as well as outside experts, notably Mary Tavenor Holmes on Lancret and Kim de Beaumont on Gabriel de Saint-Aubin. . . .

For the full review (CAA membership required), click here»

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