About This Artwork

Jean-Antoine Watteau
French, 1684-1721

The Old Savoyard, c. 1715

Red and black chalk, with stumping, on buff laid paper, laid down on cream wove card, laid down on cream board
359 x 221 mm

Helen Regenstein Collection, 1964.74

The Flemish-born artist Jean-Antoine Watteau deviated from his acclaimed scenes of courtly figures in park-like settings (called fêtes galantes) with this arresting and naturalistic chalk drawing of a humble Savoyard. This elderly vagabond from the Savoy region of France was one of many peasants who, around the turn of the eighteenth century, flocked to Paris, where they tried to eke out livings as chimney sweeps, scavengers, or street entertainers. This old entertainer’s props accompany him: a large box of curiosities is on his back, and under his arm is a smaller case probably containing his constant companion and coperformer, a furry marmot. Using only two colors of chalk, Watteau depicted the Savoyard’s shrewd, humorous face, his tattered clothing, and his bulky paraphernalia with remarkable precision, sensitivity, and humanity. Of the ten extant studies of Savoyards by Watteau, four appear to portray the same salty character seen here. The drawing’s broad, free execution points to the accomplished late works of this gifted artist.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, "French Master Drawings of the 17th and 18th Centuries in North American Collections," 1972, cat. 153, cat. by Pierre Rosenberg.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "The Regenstein Collection of European Drawings," 1974, pp. 54-55, cat. 26 (ill.), cat. by Harold Joachim.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Selected Works of 18th Century French Art in the Collections of The Art Institute of Chicago," January 24-March 28, 1976, p. 44, cat. 30 (ill.).

Paris, Musée du Louvre, "Dessins français de l’Art Institute de Chicago de Watteau à Picasso," October 15, 1976-January 17, 1977, n.p., cat. 1 (ill.).

Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, "Französische Zeichnungen aus dem Art Institute of Chicago," February 10-April 10, 1977, pp. 12-13, cat. 1 (ill.).

Washington, D.C., The National Gallery of Art, "Watteau," June 17-September 23, 1984, cat. 52; also traveled to Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, October 23, 1984-January 28, 1985; and Berlin, Charlottenburg Château, February 22-May 26, 1985.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Great Drawings from The Art Institute of Chicago: The Harold Joachim Years 1958-1983," July 24-September 30, 1985, pp. 88-89, cat. 36 (ill.), cat. by Martha Tedeschi.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "In Context: Recent Acquisitions to the Regenstein Collection," February 20 -April 28, 1995.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "The Broad Spectrum: Color on Paper, Past and Present," September 12–October 31, 1999, hors. cat.

New York, Frick Collection, "Watteau and His World: French Drawing from 1700-1750," October 19, 1999-January 9, 2000, cat. 14, cat. by Alan Wintermute, et al.; traveled to Ottawa, the National Gallery of Canada, February 11-May 8, 2000.

London, Royal Academy of Arts, "Watteau: The Drawings", March 12, - June 5, 2011, cat. 27, pp. 18, 23, 80-82, cat. by Pierre Rosenberg, et. al.

Publication History

Edmond de Goncourt, Catalogue Raisonné de l’Oeuvre Peint, Dessiné et Grave d’Antoine Watteau (Paris, 1875), p. 243, no. 370.

K. T. Parker and J. Mathey, Antoine Watteau, Catalogue Complet de son Oeuvre Dessiné (Paris, 1957), no. 492 (ill.).

Art Quarterly, 27 (1964), p. 499.

Bilder und Preise, 24 (June 28, 1965).

Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Supplement (February 1965), no. 186.

Hugh Edwards, "Two Drawings by Antoine Watteau," Museum Studies (1966), pp. 8-14 (ill.).

Edgar Munhall, "Savoyards in French 18th Century Art," Apollo (February 1968), no. 5 (ill.).

Pierre Rosenberg, Mostra di Disegni Francesi da Callot a Ingres (Florence, 1968), p. 62.

Rosenberg, French Master Drawings, no. 153 (ill.).

John Maxon, The Art Institute of Chicago (London, 1970), p. 147 (ill.).

Gottfried Lindemann, "Prints and Drawings: A Pictorial History", (Praeger Publishers, Inc. 1970), pp. 177 (ill.), 175-176.

Donald Posner, "An Aspect of Watteau ‘Peintre de la Réalité’," Études d’Art Français Offertes à Charles Sterling (Paris, 1975), pp. 282 and 285.

Suzanne McCullagh, "A Study for ‘La Fête d’Amour’ by Antoine Watteau," Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago, 70 (January-February 1976), p. 16.

Herold Joachim, “Trois siècles de portraits dessinés à l’Art Institute de Chicago,” L’Oeil, 255 (October 1976), p. 4, no. 1 (ill.).

Harold Joachim, French Drawings and Sketchbooks of the Eighteenth Century (Chicago, 1977), p. 59, no. 2G7.

Pierette Jean-Richard, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins: Collection Edmond de Rothschild (Paris, 1978), no. 42.

Marianne Roland-Michel, Watteau: An Artist of the Eighteenth Century (Paris, 1984), pp. 100 and 135, (ill.).

The Watteau Society Bulletin (1984), no. 1.

Margaret Morgan Grasselli, The Watteau Society Bulletin, 2 (1985), p. 44.

Pierre Rosenberg, "Watteau Dessinateur," Revue de l’Art, 69 (1985), pp. 51 and 53 (ill.).

Margaret Morgan Grasselli, The Drawings of Watteau (Cambridge, 1987), no. 119 (ill.).

Margaret Morgan Grasselli, "New Observations on Some Watteau Drawings," Antoine Watteau (Paris, 1987), p. 96.

Margaret Morgan Grasselli, "Watteau’s Use of the Trois-Crayon Technique," Drawings Defined (New York, 1987), pp. 185-86 (ill.).

James N. Wood and Sally Ruth May, The Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide (Chicago, 1993), p. 205 (ill.).

Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-Antoine Prat, Antoine Watteau, 1684-1721: Catalogue Raisonné des Dessins (Milan, 1996), no. 290 (ill.).

Treasures from The Art Institute of Chicago, selected by James N. Wood, with commentaries by Debra N. Mancoff (Chicago, 2000), p. 127 (ill.).

Suzanne Folds McCullagh, “‘A Lasting Monument’: The Regenstein Collection at The Art Institute of Chicago,” The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, 26, 1 (2000), pp. 8, and 12-13.

Suzanne Folds McCullagh, “A Bewigged Painter (Possibly Claude Audran), Seen in Profile, Seated at His Easel, c. 1709,” The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, 26, 1 (2000), pp. 36-37, no. 11, fig. 15.

Jeff Fleischer, "Drawing a Crowd," Chicago Magazine (November 2007), p. 44, fig. 8.

The Essential Guide (Chicago, 2009), p. 295 (ill.).

Ownership History

Jean de Julienne (died 1766); sold, Paris, March 30-May 22, 1767, de Julienne Sale, lot 769 [London 1948 auc. cat.]. Mrs. A. L. Grimaldi; sold, Sotheby’s, London, February 25, 1948, lot 85. Georges Wildenstein, London, by 1957 [Washington, D.C., 1984; Parker and Mathey 1957]. Mrs. Corina Kavanagh, Buenos Aires; sold, Sotheby’s, London, March 11, 1964, lot 220, to the Art Institute.

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