Antoine Watteau, Studies of a flute-player and two women, a drawing

Around AD 1717

On the left of this drawing Watteau is concerned with the details of the costume of the flautist. With firm strokes of red chalk and only slight touches of white to provide highlights, this drawing is a vigorous and immediate study from life. The flute, hands and head of the musician are barely sketched in. The flautist was engraved by B. Audran. His costume and pose were later used in Watteau's painting, Le Concert Champêtre, now known through an engraving, and again in the Déclaration attendue in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Angers. Another drawing supplied the head and hands. The woman in the centre appears in La Cascade, which is also now known only through an engraving.

The two studies of the woman are more delicate. In the central red chalk sketch she is seated on the ground. Her hair is finished in black chalk. White chalk highlights her ruff, with gentle white marks at her earlobe to catch the eye. In the sketch of the same woman at far right, thin lighter lines form the dress. She sits up and the white chalk highlights the fall of light on her dress and bow.

Although it is not certain that Watteau himself played a musical instrument, his art reveals a knowledge of contemporary instruments and how to play them. Music-making was an important part of the theatrical tradition whose actors he used for his paintings. The theme of music as 'the food of love' is one of the central motifs of his art.

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More information


P. Hulton, Watteau: drawings in the Briti (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)

P. Rosenberg and L.A. Prat, Antoine Watteau 1684-1721: cat (Milan, Leonardo Arte, 1996)

M.M. Grasselli and P. Rosenberg, Watteau 1684-1721 (Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, 1984)


Height: 253.000 mm
Width: 375.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1868-8-8-1274



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