The drawing is the study for one of the figures in a lost painting entitled L'occupation selon l'age, a composition that is known only from the engraving, in reverse, which was made by Charles Dupuis, for the Recueil Jullienne (fig. 1).1 Another, less incisive and accomplished version of this drawing2 was included, without having been seen in the original, by Rosenberg and Prat in their Catalogue raisonné of Watteau's drawings, with a provenance combining the actual later history of that sheet (formerly in the Groult collection) with the earlier provenance of the present work, which is definitely the one that was in the Schwiter Collection, and almost certainly also that originally owned by Jean de Jullienne himself. The confusion most likely originates from the 1905 catalogue of the Cronier sale.
Few artists have ever achieved the supreme mastery of drawing that allowed Watteau to depict his subjects with almost clinical precision of observation and total communication of mood and atmosphere, without ever letting the viewer become aware of the actual process of drawing. We engage first and foremost with the sitter and the moment depicted, and only then with how the artist has captured this moment, and that is why one can never tire of looking at an exceptional Watteau drawing such as this.
1. P. Rosenberg and L.-A. Prat, Antoine Watteau 1684-1721, Catalogue raisonné des dessins, Milan 1996, vol. I, p. 490, fig. 306a
2. Ibid., no. 306
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