Mezzetino (Watteau)

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Mezzetino (transl.Mezzetin; French: Mézetin) is an oil on canvas painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, by the French Rococo painter Jean-Antoine Watteau. Dated within 1717–1720, Mezzetino forms a full-length single-figure composition, depicting the eponymous character in commedia dell'arte. In the 18th century, Mezzetino was owned by Jean de Jullienne, the friend and patron of Watteau who supervised the four-volume edition of prints after the artist's works, for which the picture was engraved by Benoit Audran the Elder; after Jullienne's death in 1766, it was acquired for the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, then recently established by Empress Catherine II of Russia. During the Soviet sales in the 1920s and 1930s, Mezzetino was sold to British-American businessman Calouste Gulbenkian; it was later sold to the Wildenstein art firm in Paris and New York, from which it was bought in 1934 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it remains; the institution also owns a preparatory study—a drawing of the man's head.[1]

Jean-Antoine Watteau - Mezzetin.JPG
ArtistJean-Antoine Watteau
Yearc. 1718–20
MediumOil on canvas
SubjectMezzetino playing guitar
Dimensions55.2 cm × 43.2 cm (21.7 in × 17.0 in)
LocationMetropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Mezzetino was a comedy character, based on Harlequin but with his own distinctive costume, who was introduced for the first time by the Théâtre italien de Paris actor Angelo Costantini on October 16, 1683. Constantini's expressive face allowed him to portray the role without a mask, a tradition kept alive by all successive Mezzetinos. That novelty attracted Watteau, who featured Mezzetino in several of his works.[2] In the picture, Mezzetino is playing his guitar and singing, his eyes lifted as if towards an unseen balcony. The statue of Venus behind him is facing away, suggesting that his feelings are not shared by the lady she represents. Although the model for Mezzetino is not known, the fact that Jean de Jullienne, who, while selling a number of Watteau's works through his life, still kept Mezzetino, suggests he may have fulfilled the role.[3]


Exhibition historyEdit

List of exhibitions featuring the work
Year Title Location Cat. no.
1934 A Century of Progress Art Institute, Chicago 154[4][5]
1935 Exposition de l'art français au XVIIIe siècle / Udstillingen af frankrigs kunst fra det XVIII. aarhundrede Charlottenborg Palace, Copenhagen 260
French Painting and Sculpture of the XVIII Century Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 5
1937 Chefs d'œuvre de l'art français Palais National des Arts, Paris 231
1951 Wildenstein Jubilee Loan Exhibition, 1901-1951: Masterpieces From Museums and Private Collections Wildenstein & Company Building, New York 17
1952–1953 Art Treasures of the Metropolitan Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 127[6]
1970 Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Museum of Fine Arts, Boston *[7]
1970–1971 Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 303[8]
1977 Paris — New York, A Continuing Romance Wildenstein & Company Building, New York 54
1984–1985 Watteau 1684–1721 National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin P. 49[9]
2003–2004 The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard: Masterpieces of French Genre Painting National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Gemäldegalerie, Berlin 10
2009 Watteau, Music, and Theater Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 12[10]
General references: Grasselli, Rosenberg & Parmantier 1984, pp. 364–365; Baejter 2010.
"*" denotes an unnumbered entry.


  1. ^ "Mezzetin". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  2. ^ Moureau 1992, p. 123.
  3. ^ Grasselli et al. 1984, p. 364.
  4. ^ Art Institute, Chicago (1934). Catalogue of A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture. Chicago: Art Institute. p. 27. OCLC 68667579 – via the Internet Archive.
  5. ^ Bulliet, C. J. (1934). 1934 Art Masterpieces in a Сentury of Progress (exhibition catalogue). Chicago: Sterling North. p. 37. OCLC 1145795843 – via the Internet Archive.
  6. ^ Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1952). Art Treasures of the Metropolitan (exhibition catalogue). New York: H. N. Abrams. p. 230 – via the Internet Archive.
  7. ^ Standen, Edith A. (1970). Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: New York Graphic Society. p. 66. OCLC 1036384751 – via the Internet Archive.
  8. ^ Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1970). Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries (exhibition catalogue). New York: Dutton. p. 274. ISBN 0525039503. OCLC 930453793 – via the Internet Archive.
  9. ^ Opperman 1998, pp. 356, 359.
  10. ^ Baetjer 2009, pp. 44–47.


External linksEdit