Art of Courtly Love

Lecon d’Amour by Jean-Antoine Watteau
hand-coloured lithograph published Franz Hanfstaengl, Munich

I purchased the previous chapters lithograph and the one on the left at the same time.  The quality of the work is what struck me first. For lithographs which are near or over 100 years old the colours are absolutely wonderful.  This lithograph was produced by Franz Hanfstaengl, Munich from an oil painting by Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721).  These two lithographs have travelled many miles with the Lionel Ewart (previous chapter – Emma Hamilton) having been set in its frame by Braus Galleries of New York and this Watteau lithograph by the Beverly Picture Framing Studio in Beverly Hills, California.

Lithography is one of the oldest and finest printing techniques. As with this lithograph many were touched up or finished by the hand of very talented watercolour artists who put the finest details into them.

This scene is typical of Watteau, who loved to paint scenes which were charmingly bucolic and idyllic.  He frequently used subjects from the Italian comedic theatre and the ballet so some might say his paintings look a trifle staged.  He painted art about art, the world of art as seen through the eyes of an artist.

Watteaus paintings contain a note of sympathy, a wistfulness, a sadness at the fleeting nature or fickleness of love and other earthly delights.  Is love fickle or do we fall in and out of love too easily. Love is long-suffering, patient, kind. Love is as strong as death.  Maybe it is we who are fickle, changeable or just not prepared to offer what love demands.

His paintings are characterized by a huge palette of colors creating a dreamy and enchanted atmospheres illuminated by the use of a warm and diffuse light.  Certainly this lithograph of Lecon d’Amour is proof of his talent.  It is a sadness that his talent was not long for this world for he passed at the tender age of 37. The original Lecon d’Amour was painted in 1716.

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