WATTEAU

PILGRIMAGE TO CYTHERA

Jean-Antoine Watteau's painting, known as a "Fete Galante" mirrors the elegant open-air parties that were popular at the 18th century court society. Elegant couples acted out polite rituals of behavior and conversation, where true meanings and desires were discretely hidden. The couples are shown here in contemporary dress but they are transported to Cythera, the island sacred to Venus and her home after her birth (Botticelli?). Watteau used statues as almost living things in his paintings. In this painting Venus looks over her visitors while her son Cupid shoots arrow at them. Most women carried fans, they were used to convey secret messages to lovers while the couple remained closely chaperoned. Artist of the Rococo period looked to nature as a guide and inspiration, they thus alluded to the gods only in a playful or romantic way. The light-hearted theme, the harmony between humans and nature, and the pastel colors are all typical of the Rococo. Many images are left vague or incomplete, making them almost uncertain in their existence thus mirroring Venus' isle of love, for in love nothing is certain, a glance or half spoken sentence can mean something, or nothing at all. Note that Watteau moves the viewer from the left to the right of the scene with a slow curving line, which rises and fall like a phrase of music. He breaks the rhythm at the highest point with the man holding the cane. This breaking of rhythm is a technique also used in music. Just as music can bring images to mind, so paintings can make you hear music. The trick is to allow your eye to follow the lines and curves of the composition, picking up the details, and absorbing textures and colors. Mozart is the musical parallel of Watteau. Mozart played with musical textures and colors. His work created a feeling that there are matters that are more profound than are revealed on the surface of life (Mozart: Idomenco , 1791).