Standing Male Figure (Nicolas Vleughels ?)
Lead pencil and red chalk
Inv. No. 1040
29.1 × 18 cm
Leaning against an object which is not shown, the man wears a plumed cap that belongs to a bygone age. A cloak is draped over his right shoulder and falls in dark folds – by contrast, its weighty forms emphasize the delicacy of the slightly down-turned face and the nervous hand. The drawing is a study from life, and the same figure features in the painting Les charmes de la vie (The Music Party) in the Wallace Collection in London. In that picture he is leaning on the backrest of a chair and listening to music. The similarity between the study and the finished painting suggests that the former was done specifically in preparation for the latter, and that in the man’s musing, distant expression Watteau was seeking to capture the experience of listening.
Special attention has been paid to the facial expression, lending this study the quality of a portrait. There is good reason to believe that the standing, hearkening gentleman is the painter Nicolas Vleughels (1668–1737), who was later to become the director of the Académie de France in Rome. He was a friend of Watteau’s and lived at the same address as the latter in Paris in the period around 1718–19. And it is there that this drawing was probably executed – as a study and, presumably, as a personal, individual portrait.
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