Berthélemy Augustin Blondel d'Azincourt (1719-1794);
His sale, Paris, 18 April 1770, lot 23;
There acquired by Jean Baptiste Pierre Le Brun (1748-1813), Paris, for 130 livres;
Anonymous sale, Paris, Alexandre Joseph Paillet, 17 May 1774, lot 134, for 102 livres;
Louis François de Bourbon, Prince de Conti (1717-1776);
His Estate sale, Paris, 8 April - 6 June 1777, included in lot 666 (with soldats ... près d'une tour, not by Watteau);
There acquired by M. "L'Héraud," "Lerand," or "Léraut), for 251 livres"
Monsieur de Saint-Maurice, Conseiller au Parlement;
His sale, Paris, Alexandre Joseph Paillet and Alphonzo Milliotti, 6-23 February 1786, lot 40;
There acquired by M. Guenet, for 100 livres;
His sale, Paris, Le Brun, 19 April 1786 and days following (carried over to 3 May 1786), lot 144;
There acquired by Vincent Michel Maynon de Farcheville, for 121 livres;
His Estate sale, Paris, Le Brun, 28 April - 5 May 1806, lot 37 (20.05 francs);
Robert de Saint-Victor (1738-1822), Rouen;
His Estate sale, Paris, Le Brun, 26 November 1822 - 7 January 1823, lot 572;
Comtesse de Looz;
Her sale, Paris, M. Roux, 21 June 1825, lot 142;
There acquired by M. Payen;
Daniel Saint (1778-1847), Paris;
His sale, Paris, Hôtel des Ventes, 4-7 and 11-14 May 1846, lot 69, for 110 francs;
François-Simon-Alphonse Giroux (c. 1775-1848);
His Estate sale, Paris, Hôtel des Ventes, 10-12 February 1851 lot 197, for 505 francs;
Raymond B. Bodel, Louveciennes (Yvelines);
Thence by inheristance to Madame France Bodel, Louveciennes;
In this whimsical representation of Cupid's Realm, the young Watteau reveals his own formidable skills as a painter as well as his debt to his teacher, Claude Gillot. Set in a small clearing in the woods, the painting shows a group of putti and a young satyr, his horns still mere nubs at the top of his head. At the left, four putti watch a companion shooting arrows at a heart-shaped target hanging from the trunk of a tree, while at the right, another group of putti sharpens their arrows while the satyr looks on. In the center is Cupid himself, his bouffant curls restrained by a pink ribbon, while a swath of the same material is looped around his loins.
The composition and the figures, with their elongated bodies and over-large heads, show the strong influence of Gillot while the subject matter and handling are equally characteristic of Watteau's own early works. The figures are painted with a fine brush in short quick strokes using a thick, fatty paint; the main elements of the background are treated similarly. The foliage, however, is more lightly drawn, in a thinner paint, as are the dark accents on the bark of the trees. Cupid's Realm can be compared to the Pilgrimage to the Island of Cythera of around 1710, in the Städelsches Institut, Frankfurt. While the main focus of the Frankfurt painting is the elegant couples about to take a barque to Cythera, their boatmen are all putti -- brothers to the figures in the present work -- one even has a quiver of arrows. The same free style that characterizes Cupid's Realm is also evident in the Frankfurt picture. The subject here, with its vignettes of sharpening arrows and shooting at targets may have derived from the paintings of Francesco Albani, who was an important influence in France during this period.2
Although the provenance of Cupid's Realm goes back to the mid-eighteenth century, the painting had disappeared from Watteau's published oeuvre for more than 150 years when Martin Eidelberg rediscovered it in 1999.3 Its "disappearance" was due in part to the fact that it was inaccurately described in most of the early catalogues. Until 1851, the medium was recorded as oil on panel in all but one of the auction catalogues, making it difficult to relate those entries to the present work. Adding to the confusion, the description of the subject matter was often imprecise, with the result that Cupid's Realm was frequently referred to as the Island of Cythera, thus suggesting the Frankfurt picture or later versions of the same subject. It was primarily the consistency in the measurements of this unusually small work that enabled Eidelberg to trace the distinguished history of this charming painting and bring it back into the body of Watteau's oeuvre.4
1. M. Roland Michel, p. 395, writes that she only knew the painting from the illustration in Eidelberg's article (see Literature) and therefore could not fully confirm the attribution on that basis (je ne saurais être totalement affirmative sur cette seule base).
2. M. Eidelberg, pp. 42-43 (see Literature).
3. Ibid., passim.
4. Ibid., for a full discussion of the provenance and the descriptions of Cupid's Realm in the early sale catalogues (see Literature).
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