The Gift of the Fishermen

(Le Cadeau des pêcheurs)

Artist or maker:
Pater, Jean-Baptiste (b.1695, d.1736)
Late 1720s
dated stylistically
Place of production:
oil on canvas
Type of object:
Accession number:


Jean-Baptiste Pater juxtaposes the hard work of the fishermen with the recreation of the well-off. This painting was acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild along with Pater's 'The Dance' (acc. no. 2377). A pair of paintings with similar themes was once in the collection of the King of Prussia, Frederick the Great (1712-1786).

Pater trained with Antoine Watteau, an artist who had practically invented a type of painting known as the 'fête galante'. Well-dressed men and women gather in bucolic glades, enjoying entertainments as well as each others' company. Here they play, talk and flirt while dressed in whimsical costumes of the Spanish-style (à l'espagnole) and of a historical style known as Henry IV. The women wear contemporary clothes. The style of the seated women's dress is very close to Pater's 'A Gallant Conversation' (Wallace Collection, P458) dated to c. 1728-30. The exceptional flatness of the painting may indicate that it is unfinished.

Pater had a very large output. He was concerned about his finances and worked hard to produce as many paintings as he could, sometimes compromising on quality. This composition shows he did not always paint scenes of bucolic accord. The central pair indicates a lack of harmony between the two worlds: a young fisherman offers a lady a fish as a gift, but she is not impressed and recoils slightly. Pater looked to Flemish paintings of low-life scenes to introduce new elements into the 'gallant' themes made popular by his master Watteau.

During his lifetime, Pater's works were very popular with collectors including the King of Prussia but he is now less admired because of this style of working. Frederick the Great owned about 40 paintings by Pater, including a pair titled 'Fête Champetre', oil on panel, 31 x 40 cm, and 'Le Cadeau des Pêcheurs', oil on panel, 29 x 40 cm (Florence Ingersoll-Smouse; Pater: biographie et catalogue critiques; Paris; 1928, nos. 46 and 47). Frederick gave these paintings to the Academy in Berlin and they were in Doorn Castle in 1927 but were probably destroyed in World War II. The latter painting differed in format to the Waddesdon work indicating that this was not a copy of Frederick's painting. There is a copy of the Waddesdon composition in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, inv. no. 1954.17.1.

Ferdinand may have bought this painting from the dealer Charles J Wertheimer of 21 Norfolk Street, London. In a receipt of 8 July 1897 there is: '1897 June 18 a pair of pictures by Pater "Fêtes Champêtres", from the collection of Hon. Greville Vernon.' They were sold to Ferdinand for £3500 with a gouche by Pater of bathing nymphs from the collection of Captain Spencer Ricketts (see receipt acc. no. 6401_b_4). This, along with acc. no. 2377, is the only pair of paintings by Pater at Waddesdon. However, there were four paintings by Pater listed in the library of Ferdinand's London house, 143 Piccadilly, in Ferdinand's will of 1897. It is not specified whether these were pairs. They were given to his sister Hannah Mathilde von Rothschild (1832-1924). One of these paintings "A fête galante ('La bergère couronnée')" was sold Sotheby's, London, 5 July 2006, lot 62. It may have had a pair when it was in the collection of Hannah's grandson, Baron Erich von Goldschmidt-Rothschild (1899-1987), as it appears in his 1931 sale next to another painting by Pater (lots 17-18).

Phillippa Plock, 2014

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
387 x 469
368 x 453 - sight
Signature & date:
not signed or dated
No. 11 under No. 10 Octa room
on verso


Possibly owned by Hon. Greville Richard Vernon (b.1835, d.1909); acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898) possibly from Charles J Wertheimer, 21 Norfolk Street, London, 18 June 1897, for £3500 with its pair and a gouche by Pater (receipt acc. no. 6301_b_4); inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1957.
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957



Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; p. 270, no. 126; as 'Le cadeau des pêcheurs'

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