Oh, where art thou from Watteau?

Ever wondered where watteau style gowns got their name from? 

This cheeky fellow . . .

Or at least we’ll imagine he’s cheeky.  He looks more depressed to me but since he did die from tuberculosis laryngitis within the year this portrait was painted, I imagine he had good reason to be dour.  He was only 36.

The short of it is,  Antoine Watteau had a thing for sack back gowns, those über-fahsionable loose dresses worn over a tight bodice with vertical pleats extending from shoulder to hem.  You may know them better as the robe à la française as they were commonly worn throughout 1715 to 1775 by french ladies. 

So what was special about Monsieur Watteau?  Throughout his career, he was the man with the plan to create scenes of fêtes galantes, essentially what you would spend your time doing if you were rich, idle, and oh-so-fabulous.  Afternoon parties among pastures, courting and dancing, you say?  Ha, I think not.  But, if we are to take Watteau’s paintings with any literal merit, instead of say, metaphorical, we shall have to surmise otherwise.  I say, court on!

What’s interesting about Watteau is that his work was never commissioned by an aristocrat.  Although his paintings showcased more than a handful of lords and ladies and he did create the fête galante genre, he was an artiste to the bourgeois.  As such,  his paintings bear a certain melancholy, an underlining dissipation that refuses to be dispelled by worldly charms. 

But I digress. 

I told you I would show you watteau gowns showcased by Watteau and I will.   One particular detail to note is how often we see the posterior of sack back gowns rather than the anterior. 

 from Rendez-vous de chasse (hunting party), Watteau, 1720

Gersaint’s Shop Sign, Watteau, 1721


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