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Overview

Nicolas Lancret was one of Antoine Watteau's most talented followers and helped to disseminate the taste for fête-galante subjects in the eighteenth century. On the far left musicians are hidden amidst the trees, while across the canvas from left to right, arranged on an exaggerated S curve, stylishly dressed spectators have assembled in intimate groups to watch a couple perform a pas de deux. Lancret, like Watteau, was often inspired by the stage, and the female dancer depicted here is Marie-Anne de Cupis de Camargo, a ballet star of the Paris Opéra.

La Camargo is dressed in a white gown embroidered with flowers, suggesting a pastoral opera. She is gracefully poised and her partner's gestures subtly mirror her movements. Camargo, who was immensely talented, expanded the repertoire of eighteenth-century ballet with new steps that encouraged active footwork. To facilitate her movements, she shortened her skirts and may have been one of the first dancers to wear ballet slippers.

Lancret's weaving of figure and landscape into an intricate curvilinear design epitomizes the rococo style. The color scheme imbues the composition with a magical quality where the idea of nature and the fantasy of the theater are merged to create an idyllic setting for La Camargo's fashionable audience - who were also Lancret's patrons.

Provenance

Friedrich II, King of Prussia [1712-1786], Potsdam; by descent in the Hohenzollern family to Kaiser Wilhelm II [1859-1941] Berlin;[1] sold December 1927 through (Hugo Moser, Berlin) to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); purchased April 1928 by Andrew W. Mellon [1855-1937], Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 1 May 1937 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[2] gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1932
Exhibition of French Art 1200-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1932, no. 170.
1935
French Painting and Sculpture of the XVII Century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1935-1936, no. 11, repro.
1983
The Rococco Age: French Masterpieces of the Eighteenth Century, Hight Museum of Art, Atlanta, 1983, no. 43.
1991
Nicolas Lancret: 1690-1743, The Frick Collection, New York; The Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1991-1992, no. 5, pl. 9.
1992
Friedrich der Grosse: Sammler und Mäzen, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, 1992-1993, no. 49, repro.
2003
The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard: Masterpieces of French Genre Painting, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Altes Museum, Berlin, 2003-2004, not in cat. (shown only in Washington).
2014
De Watteau à Fragonard. Les fête galantes, Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris, 2014, no. 40, repro.
Bibliography
1764
Oesterreich, Matthias. Beschreibung der Königlichen Bildergallerie und des Kabinets im Sans-Souci. Potsdam, 1764: 134, no. 146. Reprint 1996.
1773
Oesterreich, Matthias. Beschreibung aller Gemählde, Antiquitäten, und anderer kostbarer und merkwürdiger Sachen, so in dene beyden Schlössern von Sans-Souci, Schlosse zu Potsdam und Charlottenburg enthalten sind. 1773: 118, no. 114. Reprint Potsdam-Sanssouci: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten, 1990.
1863
Parthey, Gustav Friedrich. Deutscher Bildersaal. Verzeichniss der in Deutschland vorhandenen Oelbilder verstorbener Maler aller Schulen. 2 vols. Berlin, 1863-1864: 2(1864):10, no. 3.
1875
Bocher, Emmanuel. Les gravures françaises du XVIIIe siècle; ou, Catalogue raisonné des estampes, eaux-fortes, pièces en couleur, au bistre et au lavis, de 1700 à 1800. 6 vols. Paris, 1875-1882: 4(1877):80, no. 114, as Mademoiselle de Camargo avec son danseur.
1883
Dohme, Richard. "Die Ausstellung von Gemälden älterer Meister im Berliner Privatbesitz. Die Französische Schule des XVIII. Jahrhunderts. II. Die Schule Watteau's." Jahrbuch der Königlich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen 4 (1883): 251, no. 26, as Der Schäfertanz an der Herme.
1900
Seidel, Paul. Les collections d'art de Frédéric le Grand à l'exposition Universelle de Paris de 1900. Berlin, 1900: 41, repro. (detail), 42, no. 15.
1900
Seidel, Paul. Les collections d’oeuvres d’art françaises du XVIIIe siècle appartenant à Sa Majesté l’empereur d’Allemagne roi de Prusse. Berlin, 1900: 92, repro. (detail), 101, no. 60.
1911
Hourticq, Louis. Histoire générale de l'Art. France. Paris, 1911: 257, fig. 537 (French ed.). (Published simultaneously in English, German, Italian, and Spanish, with differing pagination and figure numbers).
1911
Phillips, Sir Claude. "Two Famous Dancers of the Eighteenth Century." Art Journal (1911): 430.
1912
Pilon, Edmond. Watteau et son école. Brussels and Paris, 1912: 198, 201, repro. between 204 and 205.
1924
Wildenstein, Georges. Lancret. Paris, 1924: no. 585, fig. 140.
1929
Osborn, Max. Die Kunst des Rokoko. Berlin, 1929: repro. 169, 610.
1935
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 256, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 256, repro.).
1937
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: 44.
1937
Jewell, Edward Alden. "Mellon's Gift." Magazine of Art 30, no. 2 (February 1937): 82.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 103, no. 89.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 241, repro. 47.
1948
"A Portrait of Mlle. Camargo by Caffieri." Bulletin of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor 6, no. 6 (October 1948): 59, repro.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 102, repro.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 116, color repro.
1956
Einstein, Lewis. “Looking at French Eighteenth-Century Pictures in Washington.” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 6th ser., 47, no. 1048-1049 (May-June 1956): 220, fig. 6, 224-225.
1959
Cooke, Hereward Lester. French Paintings of the 16th-18th Centuries in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number Four in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 28, color repro.
1962
Meisterwerke aus den Schlössern Friedrichs des Grossen. Exh. cat. Schlöss Charlottenburg, Berlin, 1962: 57, no. 45.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 316, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 72.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:304, color repro.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 63, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 186, repro.
1979
Bartoschek, Gerd. Die Gemälde im Neuen Palais. Potsdam, 1979: 40, no. 114.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 330, no. 439, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 220, repro.
1985
Holmes, Mary Tavener. "Nicolas Lancret and Genre Themes of the Eighteenth Century." Ph.D. dissertation, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, New York, 1985: 1-5, fig.162.
1986
Grasselli, Margaret Morgan. "Eleven New Drawings by Nicolas Lancret." Master Drawings 23-24, no. 3 (Autumn 1986): 383, 385, fig. 13.
1989
Ingamells, John. The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Pictures. Vol. 3, French before 1815. London, 1989: 220-223.
1991
Holmes, Mary Tavener. Nicolas Lancret, 1690-1743. Edited by Joseph Focarino. Exh. cat. Frick Collection, New York; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1991-1992. New York, 1991: 67-68, no. 5, pl. 9.
1992
Friedrich der Grosse, Sammler und Mäzen. Exh. cat. Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, 1992: 134-135, no. 49.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 167, repro.
1992
Wintermute, Alan. "One of the Great Sponges: The Art of Nicolas Lancret." Apollo 135 (March 1992): 190-191, fig. 2.
1998
Faxon, Alicia Craig. "Dance/Dancers/Dancing." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. 2 vols. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. Chicago and London, 1998: 1:209.
2001
Vogtherr, Christoph Martin. Nicolas Lancret. Porträt der Tänzerin Maria Sallé. Berlin, 2001: 13, fig. 5, 15, 36.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 254, no. 205, color repro.
2006
Holmes, Mary Tavener. Nicolas Lancret: Dance Before a Fountain. Los Angeles, 2006: 1, 74-76, color fig. 68, 114 n. 56.
2009
Conisbee, Philip, et al. French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 2009: 279-287, no. 64, color repro.
2011
Vogtherr, Christoph Martin. Französische Gemälde I: Watteau, Pater, Lancret, Lajoüe. Berlin, 2011: no. A 14, 675-677, 784, repro.
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