The Italian Comedians

Object Details


The Italian Comedians


Jean-Antoine Watteau (French, 1684 - 1721)




France (Place created)


about 1720


Oil on canvas


128.9 x 93.3 cm (50 3/4 x 36 3/4 in.)

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Five comedians have just finished their performance in a verdant park on the outskirts of Paris and look expectantly at their audience. Pierrot, the clown in a baggy white suit, is already holding his hat in his hand, hoping that a few coins might be thrown into it.

Flanking Pierrot are four other performers dressed as characters from the Italian commedia dell'arte, which enjoyed great popularity in 18th-century Paris. Brighella wears a splendid greenish-gold suit and shoulder cape trimmed with black stripes. Mezzetin strums a few chords on his guitar, while Harlequin in a black mask with its horsehair eyebrows and moustache peers over his shoulder. A mock Spanish costume of black velvet with a white ruff identifies the figure on the far right as Scaramouche.

The actors penetrate our world with an intense humanity and vivid reality, far removed from the theatrical artifice and caprice of the stage they have just left.

by 1726

Possibly Salomon Gautier (London, England) [possibly sold, Cooper's, Green Door in Little Piazza, Covent Garden, London, January 18-30, 1726, lot 37, as "Italian Comedians" by Watteau]

by 1774

Comte Jean Du Barry, 1722 - 1792 (rue de Richelieu, Paris, France) [sold, Remy & Le Brun, Paris, November 21, 1774, lot 84, as by Watteau.]

by 1808

Hubert Robert, French, 1733 - 1808 (Palais du Louvre, Paris, France; later, 19, rue Neuve du Luxembourg, Paris, France) [sold, Hubert Robert sale, Paris, April 5-12, 1809, lot 26, as by Watteau, to Alexandre-Joseph Paillet]


Alexandre-Joseph Paillet, 1743 - 1814 (Paris, France)

by 1878

Mme. Joly de Ba...ville [Banville?] (Paris, France) [sold, Mme. Joly de Ba...ville [Banville?] sale, rue du Luxembourg, Paris, June 7, 1878]

by 1890

Gustave Rothan, 1822 - 1890 (8, place Saint-Georges, Paris, France) [sold, Galerie Georges Petit (M. Chevalier), Paris, May 29-31, 1890, lot 183, as by Jean-Baptiste Pater, to "Guiraud pour M. Porgès"]


Jules Porgès, 1839 - 1921 (14-18, avenue Montaigne, Paris, France), and by inheritance to his wife, Rose-Anne Porgès, née Wodianer (1854-1937).

by 1976

Private Collection [unsold, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, salle no. 2, June 16, 1976, no lot number, as by Jean-Baptiste Pater; sold, Palais Galliera (M. Ader), Paris, November 29, 1976, lot C, as by Philippe Mercier, to Commandant Paul-Louis Weiller]


Paul-Louis Weiller, 1893 - 1993 (Paris, France, and Geneva, Switzerland)


Heirs of Paul-Louis Weiller, 1893 - 1993 [sold, Gros & Delettrez, Paris, April 5, 2011, lot 23, as "circle of Watteau", revised in saleroom notice to "Watteau and studio", to Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox]


Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox Ltd. (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2012.