- Museum number
Portrait of a young abbé; half-length male figure facing front with head turned slightly to left and looking down to left, framed within lines, slight sketch to the left of a reclining female nude
Black and red chalks
- Production date
Height: 148 millimetres
Width: 230 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The young abbé in this portrait is apparently the same sitter who appears in another Watteau drawing in the British Museum, this time showing him from behind in lost profile (inv. 1893,1212.2). He is drawn over the faint study of a reclining female nude, who looks out over her shoulder. The juxtaposition of sacred and profile may have prompted a later collector to add the frame which surrounds the abbé, focusing attention away from the nude.
The identity of the sitter is not known. If the drawing does indeed date from the very last year of Watteau's life, then it is worth noting that the artist, after his return from London in 1720, retired to the house of Abbé Haranger, his patron, where he would die the following summer. Could this young abbé have been a visitor or associate of Haranger's? An inscription on the verso of the sheet states that the drawing was left by Watteau, after his death, to his friend the comte de Caylus. Several other drawings also bear this inscription, as listed by Rosenberg and Prat.
Rosenberg and Prat note that a copy of the drawing (now in a private collection in Paris) appeared at auction in Paris at Drouot on 4 November 1987, lot 84 and then on 22 November 1988, lot 165. This drawing was issued as a coloured facsimile by the British Museum in 'Reproductions of Drawings by Old Masters in the British Museum', Part IV, Published by the Trustees, in 1894 where it was number IX and described there as 'Antoine Watteau, Portrait of an Abbé.'
Further lit: Fourcaud, October 1901, p. 241, 243, note 1; Lafenestre, 1907, no. 31, repr.; Uzanne, 1908, pl. XIII (right half only); Gurlitt, 1909, no. 35, repr.; Pilon, 1912, p. 140, n. 2; Binyon. 1921, p. 73; Dacier, 1921, pp.9708; Réau, 1928, p. 54, no. 41; Dacier-Vuaflart, 1929, I, pp. 114-5; Parker, 1930 (1), pp. 11, 23-4, no. 38; Parker, 1931, p. 14 and note 4; Roland Michel, 1984, p. 58; Grasselli, 1984-5, p. 101, 206, fig. 1, 209; Grasselli, 1987 (1), pp. 419-421, no. 310, fig. 510; Roland Michel, 1987 (1), p. 248, fig. 298.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1980, BM, Watteau drawings in the BM, No. 40
2016-17 Sept-Jan, BM, 'French Portrait Drawings' (no cat)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number