Antoine Watteau (probably 1684 - 1721)
Sous un habit de Mezzetin (In Mezzetin’s Costume)
(called Gilles and His Family)
c. 1717 - 1719
Painting, Oil on walnut panel
The central figure is dressed as the commedia dell’arte character Mezzetin, the rascally valet and musician. The existence of a drawing for his head, inscribed ‘Syroie’, suggests that it is also a portrait of Watteau’s friend the dealer Pierre Sirois (1665-1726). Watteau may thus be making a witty reference to Sirois’s own unpredictable nature. The mixture of theatrical and contemporary costumes adds an additional note of ambiguity; like Shakespeare, Watteau saw the illusion of the theatre and the deception of the real world as interchangeable. Despite the discoloured varnish, the picture is one of the few paintings by the artist to retain something of its scintillating surface texture.
© Wallace Collection, London#Watteau #Mezzetin