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The Old Savoyard

Chalk drawing with red and black shading of man carrying crate and pack.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Chalk drawing with red and black shading of man carrying crate and pack.


c. 1715


Jean-Antoine Watteau
French, 1684-1721

About this artwork

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.


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Prints and Drawings


Jean Antoine Watteau


The Old Savoyard


France (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Red and black chalk on cream laid paper


35.9 × 22.1 cm (14 3/16 × 8 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Helen Regenstein Collection

Reference Number


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