With Watteau’s “ Coquettes ”
+ the “ Italian Comedy ” as Origin ?
Even the Great Desmares ?
Contemporarily serving at least for
Madame de Pompadour , too
Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). The Lady with the Mask. Three-quarter figure sitting to the right at a pillar, the head bowed to the left, holding in her right, “a classic symbol”, a black mask. Mezzotint. Inscribed: I. El. Ridinger excud. A. V., otherwise as following. 19⅛ × 13¾ in (48.6 × 34.9 cm).
Schwarz 1458 + plate II, XVII; Silesian Ridinger Collection at Boerner XXXIX, 2053 (“Somewhat damaged, and spotted”, 1885); Counts Faber-Castell (1958) 154.
Not in Thienemann (1856) + Stillfried (1876) , Weigel, Art Stock Catalogue, pts. I-XXVIII (1838/57; more than 1000 R.-sheets of the engraved/etched work) , Coppenrath Collection (1889/90) , R. collection at Wawra (1890; besides 234 drawings 600 prints) , Reich auf Biehla Collection (1894; “Of all [R. collections on the market] since long time there is none standing comparison even approximately with the present one in respect of completeness and quality … especially the rarities and undescribed sheets present in great number”; 1266 sheet plus 470 duplicates + 20 drawings) , Hamminger Collection (1895) , R. catalogue Helbing (1900; 1554 nos.) , R. list Rosenthal (1940; 444 nos.).
Mounted by old at the corners on especially wide-margined buff laid paper which is slightly browned at three outer margins. – Three sides almost throughout with tiny margins, only on the left predominantly trimmed to platemark. – Caption in German-Latin:
Different from the outside than on the inside .
Black on the outside and masked , on the inside white and beautiful .
Oh! some one sees black going in white mask .
According to Schwarz “reverse copy after Coypel ‘Mad. de ** (Mouchy) en habit de Bal’, engraved  by L. Surugue” (thus in reverse after Surugue and therefore again in the same direction as Coypel as then the mask rests also again in the right hand). – Identical with Thieme-Becker’s (Charles-Antoine Coypel, 1694 Paris 1752, vol. VIII, p. 28/I) “‘Mme de Mombay’ (pastel, engraved by Surugue)”? Nagler (1848), Pierre Louis Surugue, Paris 1717 – 1771, no. 4 with the addition in parentheses “Mouchy” (so also British Museum regarding Surugue’s etching [1894,0611.5; 16⅜ × 11¾ in (41.5 × 29.8 cm)] and Richard Purcell’s mezzotint of 1770 [1902,1011.3740; 13½ × 9⅝ in (34.3 × 24.5 cm)] resp.) as taken over by Schwarz, nevertheless adding
“ Some believe the lady is Mme. de Pompadour ” .
Anyhow, so Thieme-Becker, “(Coypel) co-worked at the decorations of the palace at Versailles, the chambers of Maria Lesczynskas and Mad. de Pompadour”.
And in simpler smaller execution in reverse (3⅛ × 5¼ in [8 × 13.5 cm]) the portrait figures as “Madama Poissons d’estiolles March. di P*******” as frontispiece signed “G Cattaneo Scol” to the anonymous biography “Memorie per servire alla vera storia di madama Poissons-d’Estiolles Marchesa di P*******”, written still in lifetime of the Pompadour in 1762, but published only two years after her death (Venice, Antonio Graziosi, 1766).
The latter imparted by Lorenzo Crivellin, Turin, on his homepage and there furthermore commented as follows:
“ The work is discussed in Thierry Lefrançois’s monograph on Coypel (1994), no. P.235, where the subject is identified as a Mme de Mouchy on the basis of a manuscript catalogue of the engraved work after Coypel.
I am not sure whether we can rely on that identification, but it seems much more likely, given the date of the Coypel, this engraver has simply borrowed this elegant image for his purpose. That is the conclusion which Xavier Salmon reaches in his article, p. 507 of the catalogue of Madame de Pompadour et les arts. ”
However , to the opinion here the actual origin
– as it already should have been realized by Ridinger, too – might be more complex
trace back to Antoine Watteau (Valenciennes 1684 – Nogent-sur-Marne 1721) .
And here to the Coquettes in Petersburg of about 1714/15 published in engraving by Henri-Simon Thomassin II shortly before 1731 in the Recueil Jullienne with calling in of The Italian Comedy in Berlin of about 1718 reproduced for the Recueil in 1734 (see G 29 [with headgear] + G 65 [without headgear] with [comparative] illustrations in the Watteau Exhibition Catalogue by Morgan Grasselli & Rosenberg of 1984/85 and at Pierre Rosenberg & L. A. Prat, Antoine Watteau / Catalogue raisonné des dessins, 1996, pp. 638/39, 686/87, 690/91 & 1308/09).
With the Coquettes it is the lady on the outer left of the group of four with the black boy at the balustrade who as the only one holds a black mask in her right. Her likewise low-necked gown is nevertheless not identical with the Lady with the Mask who neither wears headgear though hair ornaments. That “at first she did not wear headgear … (also was) dressed differently and had laid her mask on the balustrade” may have been known to Coypel perhaps, the Recueil engraving shows her already changed though.
Just as already the opinions diverge if Watteau’s Cythera group shows departure, return or stay, so in regard of the Coquettes
“ Since the 18th century the opinions on the theme of the painting are diverted. If one follows the anonymous author of the eight-liner (of the engraving) … then in the scene two young ladies appear who go masked to a ball to meet their ‘gallants’ there (in which, as already stressed, only for one a mask can be seen) … Mariette sees in the painting ‘people disguised for the ball’ … Lépicié speaks of a ‘return from the ball’. (Other contemporary authors) mention ‘masked persons who prepare themselves for a ball’ … Doubtless Fourcaud (1904) gets nearer to the truth when he speaks of ‘a family group during a gallant masquerade’: ‘obviously all figures originate from the sketch book’. Nevertheless in recent time not few authors are willing to identify the persons, especially Nemilova (1964) … and the names of the models. The Russian author does not want to hear anything of an allusion to the ball … but sees in the painting rather
actors of the Comédie Française from the ‘Three Cousins’
by Dancourt, as Italian actors (what corresponds to the traditional hypothesis), and identifies on the left
(the famous Charlotte) Desmares (1682-1753) …
To us the reasonable analysis by Fourcaud appears more suggestive; we see a group of friends of Watteau’s in the painting who were disguised imaginatively and arranged arbitrarily by the artist ”
(Pierre Rosenberg in Watteau Catalogue on G 29, the Coquettes).
At least the Desmares could belong to such a group of friends of the artist. Since
“ There were many reasons for Charlotte Desmares to meet Watteau: as famous tragedienne she herself was not too good for soubrette rôles in the ‘Dancourades’ – Colette in Les Trois Cousines … The nice of the great Champmeslé who produced the most beautiful rôles by Racines … Three works by Watteau … are considered as portraits of Mlle Desmares; Fourcaud (1904) even assumes that she is depicted on the ‘Isle of Cythera’ in Frankfort (G 9) … An engraving by Desplaces after Watteau shows her in the rôle of the pilgrimess (in the Trois Cousines) ”
(François Moureau in Watteau Catalogue, pp. 478 f.).
And Nemilova also sees the Desmares in the Dreameress in Chicago. On this Rosenberg ad G 26 :
“ No author of the 18th century, no catalogue speaks of the famous actress in connection with the ‘Dreameress’ … We know her portrait by Charles-Antoin Coypel that was painted short before her early resignation from the theatre in 1721 by the engraving by Bernard Lépicié … One should have to accept that it shows no similarity to the model of the painting in Chicago. But 1712-1714 Watteau was not yet an experienced portraitist. In any case we part the opinion of Nemilova and Roland-Michel
who find again the model of the ‘Dreameress’ in the ‘Coquettes’ . ”
But there then by headgear and position at the outer left, the only one with the mask. In this regard it neither can be overlooked that in the Italian Comedy (G 65) the – ascertained – actress situated in the middle distance left herself is the only one of the group with a mask, held there in her left. Because
“ Watteau always paints – except for the harlequin – the mask taken off the face, held in the hand, in a position he might have seen on a painting in the collection of Crozat: ‘Le Comédien qui tient un masque’ by Domenico Fetti, today in the Hermitage … The masks depicted by Watteau were esteemed by the people following fashion and visiting the costume balls at the opera … At a ‘Dame en habit de théatre’ (ills. 89) a relative correspondence with the work of Watteau can be stated ” (she, too, with the mask held in her hand)
(Moureau, op. cit., p. 530).
Finally noticeable that the Dreameress, the Nervous Lover (ills. 1 at G 26) as the actress with the mask of the Italian Comedy always sit/stand to the right, but look to the left. Quite as Ridinger’s Lady with the Mask after, so Schwarz, too, Coypel who shows himself tied to Watteau here and who painted the portrait of the Desmares. Without knowing its engraving by Lépicié nevertheless the objection:
is The Lady with the Mask the Desmares ?
See the detail of the portrait ascribed to Santerre in the Watteau Catalogue, p. 525, with the remark the painter “often idealized (his models) by giving them a sophisticated and oval face”. Such one distinguishes the lady here, too, whose thoughtful-dreamy look is closer to the Nervous Lover than the Dreameress just showing self-confidence. Finally amazingly the accord of the bearing of sit and head at Coypel/Ridinger + Santerre, at the latter only to the left with look to the right. Only in pure regard to the ball though the picture appears as a review after the return from the ball. With the mask as not only as an outward attribute, but “as a symbol in love-affairs” (Rosenberg). Just such Madame would be lost in thought here.
Keeping in mind Ridinger’s intensive occupation with Watteau his “excudit” for this
optically so especially beautiful sheet
is read in the sense of Langenscheidt, too – “has engraved or worked”. Present by the way as
the marvelous copy in regard of printing and preservation
of a cultivated collection of perfectly bright chiaroscuro in all parts. And in such a manner of quite extraordinary rarity not only on the market as quoted above, but in general, too. Already in 1675 the expert von Sandrart numbered “clean prints” of the velvety mezzotint manner at only c. “50 or 60” (!). “Soon after (the picture) grinds off for it not goes deeply into the copper.” Correspondingly Thienemann in 1856 :
“ The mezzotints are almost not to be acquired on the market anymore …
and the by far largest part (of them) …
(I have) only found (in the printroom) at Dresden. ”
Not even there then the one here
which subsequently remained unknown to Count Stillfried 20 years later, too! To the current knowledge here in order to be documented for the first time only nine years later with the Silesian Ridinger Collection above (“of greatest richness … many rarities”) wound up in 1885.
The latter as then here the supposed recourse to Watteau. By which Ridinger’s mastership in imaginative improvisation completely unconsidered in the past would be proved a further time. As, likewise related to Watteau, documented here as ascertained for the Self-Portrait in the Wood (Th. XIX, 1) or quite in superior style his Cythera Lady (Schwarz 1471) and his Hippocrene rejected by him and published here for the first time to his 300th birthday as examples of ripe art supplied from old and great tradition.
“ Great artists seldom cite one another literally. In some cases they pay homage to a predecessor by alluding unobtrusively in their own creations to other ideas ”
(Dirk De Vos, Rogier van der Weyden, 1999, p. 36, with the reference to Dieric Bouts [about 1420 – 1475] as the probably first example of “such a fruitful adoption”).
And finally among the above graphic reproductions of the Coypel picture Ridinger’s copy is the largest .
Offer no. 28,407 / price on application
„ … sowie herzlichen Dank für Ihre Ausführungen zur Kulturgeschichte / Ihr … “
(Herr H.-J. W., 7. Januar 2010)