Lot 14
  • 14

Jean Antoine Watteau

300,000 - 400,000 USD
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  • Jean Antoine Watteau
  • Young Man Turned Three Quarters to the Right, His Left Hand Folded in Front of Him, Wearing a High Cap
  • Red and black chalk and graphite
  • 7 1/4 x 6 1/8 inches


William Mayor (L.2799);
J.P. Heseltine (L.1507, on the former mount, now attached to the backboard);
Dr. Tuffier;
Penin de la Raudière, Paris, in 1957;
with Jean-Pierre Selz,
where acquired in 1986


Copenhagen, L'Art Français au XVIII Siècle, 1935;
London, The Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, 1954-55, no. 257;
New York, Frick Collection; Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Watteau and His World, French Drawing from 1700 to 1750, 1999-2000, no. 39


W. Mayor, A brief Chronological Description of a collection of Original Drawings and Sketches by the most celebrated Masters, London 1871, no. 313;
Ibid., 2nd ed., London 1875, no. 547;
E. de Goncourt, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, dessiné et gravé d'Antoine Watteau, Paris 1875, pp. 27, 294, no. 640;
J.P. Heseltine, Drawings by Boucher, Fragonard and Watteau, London 1900, no. 26;
L. de Fourcaud, "L'invention sentimentale, l'effort technique et les pratiques de composition et d'exécution de Watteau," Revue de l'art ancien et moderne, X, no. 56, November 1901, p. 341 and note 1;
K.T. Parker, The Drawings of Antoine Watteau, London 1931, p. 26, p. 27 note 4;
K.T. Parker and J. Mathey, Antoine Watteau, catalogue complet de son oeuvre dessiné, 2 vols. Paris 1957, II, no. 736, reproduced;
P. Rosenberg and M. Morgan Grasselli, Watteau, 1684-1721, exhib. cat., Washington, D.C., The National Gallery of Art, Paris, Grand Palais, and Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, 1984-85, p. 378, fig. 9;
M. Morgan Grasselli, The Drawings of Antoine Watteau, Stylistic Development and Problems of Chronology, 2 vols., unpublished doctoral thesis, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1987, pp. 361-362, no. 251, fig. 443;
P. Rosenberg and L.-A. Prat, Antoine Watteau, 1684-1721.  Catalogue raisonné des dessins, Milan 1996, vol. II, pp. 1040-1041, no. 611, illus.


Hinge mounted in two places along the upper edge to a modern card backing. The chalk medium is in very fine condition with the drawing fresh and vibrant throughout. Sold in a carved giltwood frame.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Beautifully preserved, this delightful study of a boy in a soft hat encapsulates the wit, psychological insight and technical brilliance that characterise Watteau’s finest drawings.  It is one of a number of surviving studies for the artist’s important, late painting, The Shepherds (fig. 1), a large canvas, executed around 1718 and now at Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin.1  The drawing was reproduced (as no. 262) in Jean de Jullienne’s compendium of prints after Watteau’s best drawings, Les Figures de différents caractères, published in 1726-28; an impression of the etching, in reverse, by Laurent Cars is sold with the drawing. Some seven other studies relating to this painting and to an earlier variant of the composition, (Pastoral Pleasures, in the Musée Condé, Chantilly) are known, of which the present study and three others can be directly related only to the Berlin version.2  The boy in a hat seen here appears only in the later painting, peering out over the shoulders of the seated lady and gentleman, and looking, with an expression that is a combination of quizzical, indulgent and amused, towards the energetically dancing couple in the center of the scene.  Described by Rosenberg and Prat (loc. cit.) as ‘d’un traitement particulièrement incisif’, the drawing is clearly conceived in the knowledge that the figure would be placed behind something, with only his head and shoulders visible, but the study includes the boy’s left hand, which does not appear in the painting.  Indeed, the hand is one of the most striking features of the drawing, dynamically executed in red chalk and providing an essential structure and balance, without which the drawing would be far less visually satisfying; it would be very typical of Watteau to include the hand to make the drawing work better in its own right, even if he already knew that the motif would not appear in the final painting.

Of the other related drawings, two are particularly comparable to the present sheet in mood and technique.  Especially notable in terms of its originality of pose and virtuoso handling is a stunningly beautiful study for the background figure of the woman on a swing, seen from behind, while another, smaller and more contemplative study of a seated woman, who in the painting becomes the woman in the pearl necklace, turning towards the dancing couple, is also particularly close to the present study in terms of the extensive and brilliant use of graphite in conjunction with the trois crayons.3

Far more than any of his contemporaries, Watteau constantly experimented with different ways of combining the traditional red, black and white chalks,4 and at this relatively late stage in his brief career he also began increasingly to explore the visual potential of graphite (often erroneously referred to as mine de plomb or 'black lead'5), used in conjunction with some or all of the trois crayons.  Graphite adds the possibility of dark yet reflective lines and shading, and when it is, as here, used in tandem with judiciously applied passages of red chalk and bold accents in black chalk, the visual richness and variety that the artist achieves is truly extraordinary.  Whereas so many other artists used the trois crayons in a much more formulaic way, with red chalk consistently employed in certain parts of the composition and black and white in certain others, Watteau was simply not capable of thinking or working in a formulaic way.  In no two drawings does he combine his media in exactly the same way, instead tailoring the combinations very specifically to the type of drawing, sitter, fabric, or scene that he was seeking to capture or create. 

Compared with the other, very different drawing by Watteau in the Barnet Collection (lot…), graphite is here more dominant, but is applied in a broader, softer way, in keeping with the much calmer, more thoughtful mood of the paused figure.  The red chalk, with which the whole of one figure on the other sheet is constructed, is here used locally, though very powerfully, in the face and hand, and there is no white chalk at all.  Yet in another otherwise rather similar drawing, in a private collection, which seems to show the very same boy together with another figure, Watteau has liberally applied red chalk also to the hat - perhaps to make up for the absence of the hand - and has also incorporated significant amounts of white chalk.6 

This total mastery of media, and of the subtle variations of their application, lies at the very heart of Watteau’s unparalleled mastery as a draughtsman, and also at the heart of this drawing’s great beauty and power. 

1.  See Watteau, exhib. cat., op. cit., 1984-85, pp. 375-8, no. P.53.
2.  Rosenberg and Prat nos 120, 310, 445, 460, 489, 491 and 557
3.  Rosenberg and Prat nos. 310 and 491; the latter sold, London, Sotheby's, 6 July 2010, lot 72
4.  L.-A. Prat, ‘‘Resounding Blows’: Notes on Watteau’s Drawing Technique,’ Watteau, The Drawings, exhib. cat., London, Royal Academy of Arts, 2011, pp. 21-25
5.  Prat notes (op. cit.,¸p. 23) that there is in fact no lead in this pigment, citing the article: H. Guicharnaud and A. Duval, ‘Une Technique graphique au nom ambigu: la “mine de plomb”,’ Revue des Musées de France. Revue du Louvre, Paris 2010, 3, pp. 41-47
6.  Rosenberg and Prat no. 606