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Jean Moyreau

(1690 Orléans – 1762 Paris)

L´Alliance de la musique et de la comédie. Engraving after Jean-Antoine Watteau. 45.8 x 33.4 cm. 1730/31. Portalis/Béraldi p. 210.

As indicated on the print, Moyreau engraved this enigmatic composition after a painting by Watteau, now in an anonymous private collection. The print presents the composition in reverse with the exception of the central escutcheon, which is rendered in the same direction as the painting. The work has been dated with the help of two advertisements announcing its publication in the Mercure de France, one in March 1730 (p. 552) and the other in June 1731 (vol. II, p. 1564).

At the heart of the picture is a black shield decorated in gold with a mask and musical notations and surrounded by a wreath of musical and theatrical attributes from which hangs a silver medallion. The shield is crowned by the head of Scapin or Crispin, both of whom are deceitful, meddlesome personages in commedia dell’arte and French theatrical traditions. Suspended above the shield are two half laurel wreaths. The escutcheon is flanked on either side by allegorical female figures. On the right holding a mask stands Thalia, the muse of comedy and pastoral poetry. The muse on the left has been variously identified as Erato, the muse of lyrical poetry and song, as Terpsichore, the patroness of dance, and more recently as Euterpe, the muse of music. Despite the large number of suggestions that has been made, the purpose of the composition remains in dispute. The fact that the painting is very atypical of Watteau and his oeuvre suggests the work might have been commissioned. Given the complexity of the composition, however, it is unlikely that it was designed as a shop sign or a theatre curtain, as has been intimated in the past.

A very fine impression with full margins. Minor foxing, slightly browned on the sheet borders, minor traces of handling in the lower margin. Otherwise in excellent condition.

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