Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721)
La Surprise: A Couple Embracing While a Figure Dressed as Mezzetin Tunes a Guitar, 1718–19
Oil on panel
14 ½ x 11 ½ inches (36.8 x 29.2 cm)
Location: North Hall
Antoine Watteau’s magnificent painting La Surprise has long been deemed a masterpiece of eighteenth-century French painting by scholars and connoisseurs. The panel was originally in the collection of — and may have been painted for — Nicolas Hénin (1691–1724), Councilor to the King and a close friend of the artist. The work then entered several prestigious Parisian collections before ending up in England and disappearing from public view. Unpublished, unexhibited, and presumed lost for nearly two hundred years, La Surprise was discovered in an English private collection in 2007. The current owner’s generosity has made it possible for this important example from Watteau’s oeuvre to be admired by visitors to The Frick Collection, where the picture will be on view through November of 2013. It is installed in the North Hall, near works by other French artists, among them, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Claude Monet. The Frick’s only Watteau, The Portal at Valenciennes — a work from the artist’s early maturity — also hangs in this gallery.