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Oil painting - Figures in an Arcadian Landscape
  • Figures in an Arcadian Landscape
    Watteau, Jean-Antoine, born 1684 - died 1721
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Figures in an Arcadian Landscape

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    late 18th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Watteau, Jean-Antoine, born 1684 - died 1721 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    The Lady Bettine Abingdon Collection. Bequeathed by Mrs T. R. P. Hole

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) was born in Valenciennes and trained there by Jacques-Albert Gérin (c. 1640-1702) or the sculptor Antoine-Joseph Pater (1670-1747), the father of Watteau's only pupil, Jean-Baptiste Pater (1695-1736). Watteau then reached Paris, probably around 1702 and may have met Claude Gillot (1673-1722) two or three years later and collaborated with him some years. Watteau was best known for his invention of the 'fête galante', which was exploited by many followers after his early death in 1721.

This painting was probably made by a follower of the French painter Antoine Watteau in the 18th century. It shows elegant people listening to a musician playing pipe on the edge of a wood and present a carefree aristocratic world typical of the Rococo period. Watteau had many followers in France and in England during the 18th century.

Physical description

Four figures in an arcadian landscape on the edge of a wood: three figures seated, listening to a fourth playing a pipe.


late 18th century (made)


Watteau, Jean-Antoine, born 1684 - died 1721 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on panel


Height: 17.5 cm estimate, Width: 27.5 cm estimate, :

Object history note

The Bettine, Lady Abingdon Collection, bequeathed by Mrs T. R. P. Hole, 1987. Item Provenance: Provenance The Stuart Collection, Highcliffe; Christies 29 February.

Historical significance: This painting shows a pastoral scene with figures set in an Arcadian landscape, reminiscent of the art of Watteau. This type of paintings generally presents carefree aristocratic life with elegant figures in gallant conversation or listening to music such as in the present work. The pale tonality of the overall painting as well as setting the scene on the edge of a wood recalls similar compositions by Lancret, one of Watteau's most notable followers, such as The Swing in The Victoria and Albert Museum (see 515-1882).
Watteau enjoyed a great success during his life and his works continued to be sought-after by collectors after his death, especially in England. Philippe Mercier, a Huguenot painter working in London from ca. 1716 to 1736, borrowed elements of his style while his art also influenced some artists such as William Hogarth (1697-1764).

Historical context note

Pastoral is a genre of painting whose subject is the idealized life of shepherds and shepherdesses set in an ideally beautiful and idyllic landscape. These scenes are reminiscent of the Arcadia, the Antique Golden Age that the Roman author Virgil (1St BC) described in the Eclogues and were at the time illustrated on the Roman wall paintings. The pastoral was reborn during the Renaissance, especially in Venice, in the oeuvre of such painters as Titian (ca. 1488-1576) and Giorgione (1477-1510), and gradually evolved over the centuries. In the 17th century, Arcadian themes were illustrated in the Roman school led by the painter Claude Lorrain (1604-1682) whereas a century later, Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) and his followers forged the new genre of fêtes galantes, which appears as a derivation of the pastoral. The pastoral became the hallmark of the Rococo movement in which François Boucher's (1703-1770) elegant eroticism found his true expression. This tradition, which had become an illustration of the carefree aristocratic world, died with the French revolution and was never revived although the celebration of the timeless Mediterranean world in the oeuvre of such painter as Henri Matisse (1869-1954) may be seen as a continuing interest for the theme.

Descriptive line

Oil Painting, 'Figures in an Arcadian Landscape', Follower of Antoine Watteau, late 18th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

The Bettine, Lady Abingdon Collection; The Bequest of Mrs T.R.P. Hole - A Handbook, Sarah Medlam, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1996, cat. no. P.8


Oil paint; Panel

Subjects depicted

Musicians; Pastoral


Musical instruments


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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