The Line of March

oil painting of standing soldiers and cavaliers seen from behind in landscape at night

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721)
The Line of March, ca. 1710
Oil on canvas (originally in oval frame and later extended)
15 3/8 x 19 5/16 in. (39 x 49 cm)
York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery); Presented by F. D. Lycett Green through The Art Fund, 1955

This painting, which has darkened considerably over time, is one of Watteau’s earliest military scenes. Unlike the others, which focus on moments between the fighting, it shows a battle scene, with cannon fire dimly perceptible on the horizon. The main interest of the painting, however, is the encounter in the foreground: an officer thrusts his saber at a seated soldier as his female companion, possibly a prostitute, recoils and two soldiers on the other side of the composition look on calmly. The Halt, also in this exhibition, is its likely pendant.

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