“Concert in the Oval Salon of Pierre Crozat’s Chateau at Montmorency” represents something quite rare in Nicolas Lancret’s oeuvre: the portrayal of actual contemporary events. A concert is being held in a private location; there is no stage but rather intimate seating for performers and audience alike. We see a graceful oval room, a radiating-parquet floor, and large arcade windows that look out onto a garden. We can make out a fountain among a froth of leaves. Late afternoon sun streams into the chamber. The room itself, grand in scale and holding its crowd of small figures quite comfortably, is lined with Doric columns and niches for full-length figural sculptures. A group of musicians is clustered at center, anchored by a harpsichord and surrounded on both sides by an elegant assembly of spectators. The sketchy quality, especially in the agile placement of highlights and the deft touch in the abstract faces, gives this small work a scintillating vitality.
The subject is a gathering in the country home of Pierre Crozat, a banker and avid art patron. By attending Crozat’s concerts, contemporary elegant Parisians participated in a new court of Enlightenment: enjoying the pleasures of music in spaces dedicated to the arts. Lancret’s reproduction of recognizable contemporary locations firmly relocated the fête galante from Jean-Antoine Watteau’s pastoral southern Italian landscapes to present-day France, and to a new realm of beauty, music, and poetry.
Mary Tavener Holmes, "Nicolas Lancret and a Tale of Three Collectors," in “French Art of the Eighteenth Century: The Michael L. Rosenberg Lecture Series at the Dallas Museum of Art,” ed. Heather MacDonald (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art and the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, 2016), 53–66.