Two Studies of the Head and Shoulders of a Little Girl (c. 1716-1717) by Jean-Antoine Watteau

Two Studies of the Head and Shoulders of a Little Girl - Jean-Antoine Watteau - c. 1716-1717

Artwork Information

TitleTwo Studies of the Head and Shoulders of a Little Girl
ArtistJean-Antoine Watteau
Datec. 1716-1717
MediumRed, black and white chalks on buff paper
Dimensions18.7 x 24.4 cm
Current LocationPierpont Morgan Library, New York
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About Two Studies of the Head and Shoulders of a Little Girl

In preparation for painting his masterpiece “The Embarkation for Cythera”, Jean-Antoine Watteau prepared two studies of the head and shoulders of a little girl. These particular drawings focused on the girls face with her hat, her profile, and her back turned. The additions include some pastels to convey some quick sketch ideas in a close version of the painting. Watteau also worked on adding more detail to any needed areas before completing the painting.

The final study, done in charcoal and chalk pastels, is a landscape drawing looking out at the perspective behind the little girl. This panoramic view is meant to take in all of the elements of nature such as trees, hillsides and sky that can be seen in “The Embarkation for Cythera”. In addition, it helps to set up the composition of this work specifically by bringing attention to how foreground details should be emphasized. All these studies are very important in helping to create a picture with an extreme amount of contrast between light and dark objects as was portrayed by Jean-Antoine Watteau in his masterpiece from 1716-1717.

Finally, Jean-Antoine Watteau’s mastery of perspective shines through in his final painting by creating an environment that immerses viewers into nature with a combination of complex positioning effects and spatial divisions. The details he added during preparatory works allowed him to layer meaning within “The Embarkation For Cythera” while adding significant dynamism. This painting has become an iconic representation of early French rococo paintings by grasping beauty without needing extraordinary details or grandiose landscapes.

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