Preparations for the Dance
Oil on copper
Lowther Estate Trust Collection, Lowther Castle, Penrith, England
Courtesy of Hazlitt, London
The engaging children in this composition dance to the music of the flute player at left. A smiling girl delicately lifts her blue apron and a bare foot as the boys on either side of her raise their legs with more abandon and look toward the viewer. The painting was already famous by the early eighteenth century; Jean-Antoine Watteau copied the heads of the children and the old woman in a chalk sketch. It was also hugely celebrated in England, where it is first documented in 1758, reproduced in a set of engravings that featured such masters as Murillo, Rembrandt, and Poussin. The copper is usually assigned to Antoine, who was a master of surface texture—deftly indicated here in the lacework of the boy’s collar, at far right.
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