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The Love Lesson

Jean-Antoine Watteau1716/1717

Nationalmuseum Sweden

Nationalmuseum Sweden

In Antoine Watteau’s painting The Love Lesson, a group of young people are sitting by a marble statue of a huddled nymph in a parkland setting. They are being entertained by a man with a Spanish guitar. One of the girls is breaking off roses and appears to strew petals over the group. The girl in the yellow dress has a notebook on her knee.

The Love Lesson is an example of a fête galante, a genre painting depicting a park landscape of sultry light and leafy greenery with people socialising together, a typical theme for the artist.

X-ray images show that Watteau painted The Love Lesson on a coach door bearing a coat of arms with two unicorns and the crown of a marquis.

Nationalmuseum acquired the work in 1953 by means of fundraising, donations from the Friends of Nationalmuseum and money from the museum’s funds.

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Details

  • Title: The Love Lesson
  • Creator: Antoine Watteau
  • Date Created: 1716/1717
  • Title in Swedish: Kärlekslektionen
  • Physical Dimensions: w610 x h440 cm (without frame)
  • Artist Information: Although he is always considered one of the leading French artists of the 18th century, Antoine Watteau had a Flemish background. He grew up in Valenciennes in north-east France, in a province with strong connection to Flemish history and culture. There is also a distinct Flemish 17th-century influence to the images he created. In 1702 he moved to Paris and started training as a decorative painter. After a few initial setbacks, his artistic career took off and in 1712 he was inducted into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris. However, to become a full member, the chosen artist had to submit a reception piece. Watteau’s submission could not easily be pigeonholed into any of the established categories, so a new name had to be created to represent his choice of motif – fêtes galantes. These ‘gallant parties’ of the aristocracy then became a popular genre of painting during the 18th century and attracted a number of other artists. The scenes depict young, passionate and elegant couples in leafy parkland settings. In the tranquil festivities, the courting was interwoven with dancing and music, and among the fashionable silk dresses there were figures in theatrical costumes, often drawn from the Commedia dell’arte tradition. Traces of melancholy can often be discerned in what are at once chaste and amorous park scenes.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Nationalmuseum, Nationalmuseum
  • Medium: Oil on panel

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