Watteau: Eros of Oblivion

The first impression is surprise: how tiny this picture happens to be; and then you are surprised again by the serenity conveyed by its clumsy composition: The three bodies draped in brilliant pastels are piled on the right: the seated woman, accepting a rose from her admirer, the gesture that in the XVII century language of flowers said so much more than it does today; the man kneeling next to her, spreading his cloak filled with pink brush-strokes; and the standing figure, which we see from the back and this is how she directs our eyes to the park deepened by the reflections of marble: two statues in the autumn haze. The Cousins.

Paul Verlaine was standing here over a century ago trying to recover in his poetry Watteau’s choreography of elegance. He has failed. So what is it exactly that is left of these pleasures where each position of every fan unfolded a discourse; and a fake beauty mark made out of black felt sent its own message. This very cracked surface of paint has absorbed it all, and there is nothing left besides that. That’s it, and then, then it will be our turn to turn into pictures. Ah! My friends, let us leave Cythera with courage, seeking satisfaction nowhere else.

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