Recently Discovered Watteau Masterpiece on Loan to The Frick Collection

a painting of a couple embracing while a man plays a guitar and a dog nearby


Scholars and connoisseurs have long deemed Antoine Watteau's magnificent picture La Surprise a masterpiece of eighteenth-century French painting. The panel was originally in the collection of Nicolas Hénin (1691–1724), Councilor to the King and a close friend of the artist, for whom it may have been painted. 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 Unpublished, unexhibited, and presumed lost for nearly two hundred years, La Surprise was discovered in an English private collection in 2007.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 loan for two years beginning in November of 2011. 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. During the residence of La Surprise at the Frick, a series of educational programs, including public lectures and gallery talks, will be offered to deepen public appreciation of the painting. Comments Deputy Director and Chief Curator Colin B. Bailey, "The Frick Collection's reputation for presenting outstanding single loans and its extensive collection of eighteenth-century French paintings and decorative arts makes it the ideal venue for the display of this extraordinary work. We're so pleased to have the opportunity to welcome it to the Frick for a substantial period of time." 

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