I was upstairs, walking the perimeter of Sully when the fire alarm went off. Smoke began to fill le Musée du Louvre…. Mechanically my hands reached out for the picture closest to where I stood. God helped me, for it definitely pushed the limits of what I could carry…. Already barely able to breath, I skipped the endless flights of stairs…. I must have been already in the Court of Marly, but could no longer see anything, and collapsed with the painting still in my hands. Damn, I never knew how fragile they were. For a while I was lying on the steps next to the broken pieces of canvas, then, as the paramedics dragged me to the stretcher, I saw someone, perhaps the museum curator, crawl under the firemen’s hoses, trying to collect the fragments inside their frame.
It is not that Watteau had completely lost his sense of composition, but the presentation to the Academy demanded an effort on a greater scale. Only once during his short painting career did he compromise his art.
Does it matter? We can easily reverse his assembly process and restore each scene to its original frame without ever resorting to scissors. See, The Embarkation to Cythera is one of those paintings where the poetic quality of each individual scene is greater than their ensemble.