The Surprise (Watteau)

The Surprise (La Surprise) is a c. 1718 oil on panel painting by the French Rococo artist Antoine Watteau, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. The painting depicts showing a male guitarist, dressed as Mezzetino, watching an embracing couple embrace, with a small dog watching the whole scene; it notably exhibits Watteau's use of recurrent figures, as well as the influence of Flemish Baroque painting on his art.

Jean-Antoine Watteau La Surprise, oil on panel.jpg

The Surprise was a pendant to Perfect Harmony, now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; both works were originally owned by Watteau's friend Nicolas Hénin, but they were sold separately by his heir, who published an engraving of both works. Surprise then disappeared between 1770 and 1848 and again between 1848 and 2007. The original was rediscovered in March 2008 in a British country house and had been in that family's collection since 1848. It was sold for 15 million Euros at Christie's in London on 8 July 2008.


L'Accord Parfait is in the museum in Los Angeles, but the Surprise has had several owners over the years and was last referenced in 1764 in the catalog of a collector who claimed to be its owner, the photo was known only from the picture and a copy which appeared in the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace in London.

The original was rediscovered in March 2008, in the corner of a room in the country house of a British family, by an expert who came to appraise another work there.[1] According to this expert, the painting had been in this family since 1848, who were unaware of its importance and value.[2] Sold at auction on July 8, 2008, by Christie's in London, the Surprise reached a value of 15 million euros.[3]

Further readingEdit

  • Adhémar, Hélène (1950). Watteau; sa vie, son oeuvre (in French). Includes "L’univers de Watteau", an introduction by René Huyghe. Paris: P. Tisné. pp. 45-47, 56, 147, 185, 223, cat. no. 167. OCLC 853537.
  • Baetjer, Katharine, ed. (2009). Watteau, Music, and Theater. Rosenberg, Pierre (an introduction by); Cowart, Georgia J. (an essay by). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. pp. 42-44, cat. no. 11. ISBN 978-1-58839-335-7.
  • Banks, Oliver T. (1977). Watteau and the North: Studies in the Dutch and Flemish Baroque Influence on French Rococo Painting. New York, London: Garland. pp. 223-226. OCLC 1075255658.
  • Börsch-Supan, Helmut (2000). Antoine Watteau, 1684-1721. Meister der französischen Kunst (in German). Köln: Könemann. p. 59, ill. 49. ISBN 3-8290-1630-1. OCLC 925262301.
  • Camesasca, Ettore (1971). The Complete Painting of Watteau. Classics of the World's Great Art. Introduction by John Sutherland. New York: Harry N. Abrams. p. 112, cat. no. 144. ISBN 0810955253. OCLC 143069 – via the Internet Archive.
  • Dacier, Émile; Vuaflart, Albert (1922). Jean de Julienne et les graveurs de Watteau au XVIII-e siècle. III. Catalogue (in French). Paris: M. Rousseau. pp. 20-21, no. 31. OCLC 1039156495.
  • Glorieux, Guillaume (2011). Watteau. Collection Les Phares (in French). Paris: Citadelles & Mazenod. p. 204. ISBN 9782850883408. OCLC 711039378.
  • Goncourt, Edmond de (1875). Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, dessiné et gravé d'Antoine Watteau. Paris: Rapilly. p. 148, no. 167. OCLC 1041772738 – via the Internet Archive.
  • Grasselli, Margaret Morgan; Rosenberg, Pierre; Parmantier, Nicole; et al. (1984). Watteau, 1684-1721 (PDF) (exhibition catalogue). Washington: National Gallery of Art. ISBN 0-89468-074-9. OCLC 557740787 – via the National Gallery of Art archive.
  • Mathey, Jacques (1959). Antoine Watteau. Peintures réapparues inconnues ou négligées par les historiens (in French). Paris: F. de Nobele. p. 68. OCLC 954214682.
  • Michel, Christian (2008). Le "célèbre Watteau". Genève: Droz. pp. 76, 118, 183, 211 n. 51. ISBN 978-2-600-01176-1. OCLC 1158803919.
  • Parker, Karl T. & Mathey, Jacques (1957–1958). Antoine Watteau: catalogue complet de son oeuvre dessiné. Paris: F. de Nobèle. vol. 1, p. 42, under no. 279; vol. 2, p. 359, under no. 839. OCLC 2039948.
  • Parker, Karl T. (1970) [1931]. The Drawings of Antoine Watteau. New York: Hacker Art Books. p. 25, 37. ISBN 0-87817-050-2. OCLC 680613312 – via the Internet Archive.
  • Posner, Donald (1984). Antoine Watteau. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 69, 169. ISBN 0-8014-1571-3. OCLC 10736607 – via the Internet Archive.
  • Réau, Louis (1928–1930). "Watteau". In Dimier, Louis (ed.). Les peintres français du XVIII-e siècle: Histoire des vies et catalogue des œuvres (in French). Vol. 1. Paris: G. Van Oest. p. 40, cat. no. 119. OCLC 564527521.
  • Roland Michel, Marianne (1984). Watteau: un artiste au XVIII-e siècle. Paris: Flammarion. pp. 55, 57, 156, 230, 266; ill. 145. ISBN 0862940494. OCLC 417153549.
  • Temperini, Renaud (2002). Watteau. Maîtres de l'art (in French). Paris: Gallimard. p. 63 145; cat. no. 77. ISBN 9782070116867. OCLC 300225840.
  • Zimmermann, E. Heinrich (1912). Watteau: des Meisters Werke in 182 Abbildungen. Klassiker der Kunst (in German). Vol. 21. Stuttgart, Leipzig: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. pp. 27, 186. OCLC 561124140.


  1. ^ "Times Online - £5m surprise as lost Jean-Antoine Watteau masterpiece reappears". 25/03/08. Retrieved 2008-12-20. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ " - Grande-Bretagne : record aux enchères pour "La Surprise" de Watteau" (in French). 09/07/2008. Retrieved 2008-12-20. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ "Uol ùltimas notícias - Um Watteau sumido há 160 anos vendido a preço recorde em leilão em Londres" (in Portuguese). 08/07/2008. Retrieved 2008-12-20. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)

External linksEdit