The Perfect Accord

(L'Accord parfait)

Watteau, Antoine (b.1684, d.1721)
previously attributed to Antoine Watteau (b.1684, d.1721)
c 1719
c 1625-1650 {underpainting}
dated by original in LACMA; underpainting dated stylistically
Place of production:
oil on panel
Type of object:
Accession number:


The original version of this composition, now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, was painted by Antoine Watteau for his friend and patron, the Royal Councillor Nicolas Henin (1691-1724). As perfect harmony is achieved by a group of musicians, a young couple find reciprocal love. The artistic quality of this panel suggests that it is a copy, but X-ray evidence shows the painter used the same methods as Watteau.

The 18th-century image is painted over the upper half of an earlier 17th century panel. X-rays show the upper half of a Flemish still life painting of flowers set in an arched niche. Watteau often re-used old panels, indicating that the artist of this painting used similar working methods.

The guitar player was identified as Scapin in a sale of 1778. Scapin was a character in the Italian pantomime known as the ‘commedia dell’arte’. Watteau often used references to the theatre in his works. The surface appeal of the theatre lent an air of fantasy and make-believe to his innovative paintings of courtly gatherings known as ‘fêtes galantes’. His works often have an underlying air of melancholy notably absent in this composition. Here a man and woman calmly walk arm-in-arm, enjoying the music and the peace of the woodland glade. The only disruptive element in the scene is the presence of Pan, an ancient god linked with bestial lust rather than courtly romance.

When the work entered the collection of Baron James de Rothschild, sometime in the first half of the 19th century, it was believed to be an original. The dealer probably gave the provenance now thought to belong to the Los Angeles painting (AC1999.18.1). That work is actually painted on half a panel, the other half of which was used for 'La Sérénade italienne' in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm (CR. 136), widely considered to be an original. Certain details of the Waddesdon panel also do not accord with an engraving of 1730. The men's faces do not have the expression of the original; the left hand of the seated woman is weak, particularly in the rendering of the shadow; the music book and textiles are not supple and free flowing; and the bottom of the flute player's breeches on his left leg is too high.

The original composition was copied many times. There is an example in the National Gallery, London (2962). It was engraved by Bernard Baron around 1729 with the title of 'L'Accord Parfait'. When in the collection of Henin, the composition was paired with that of 'La Surprise', the original painting of which has recently come to light (sold Christie's, London, 8 July 2008, lot 21). A study drawing for the man playing the flute is in Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum, inv. 88.GB.3.

Phillippa Plock, 2011

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
374 x 291
360 x 278 - sight
Signature & date:
not signed or dated
Wattea[u] / [L]e Conce[rt] ou L[e] joueur de flûte
on verso on upper section of frame, pen and ink

on verso on upper section of frame, pencil
on verso, Black label framed by double gilt tram lines measuring c. 4 x 5cm

152 / WATTEAU / Le jouers de flûte / ou l'accord parfait
on verso upper section of frame, square white label

Caisse no 11 / Watteau / Le joueur de flûte
on reverse of panel, white label with canted corners

on verso, round label with blue border


Possibly acquired by Germain-Louis Chauvelin (b.1685, d.1762); possibly sold in Chauvelin Sale 1762, no. 27; possibly sold, Anon. 10 Dec 1778, no. 109 (though more probably Los Angeles County Museum of Art, AC1999.18.1); acquired by Baron James de Rothschild (b.1792, d.1868); by descent to his son Baron Edmond de Rothschild (b.1845, d.1934); by descent to his son 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



Lottin; Catalogue des tableaux, estampes..... du cabinet de feu messire Germain-Louis Chauvelin... vente 21 juin...; 1762; Paris; no. 27; on possible provenance but more likely LACMA painting
Edmond de Goncourt; Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, dessiné et gravé d'Antoine Watteau; Paris; Rapilly, Libraire et Marchand d'Estampes; 1875; no. 97
Émile Dacier, Albert Vuaflart; Jean de Julienne et les Graveurs de Watteau au XVIIIe siècle; Paris; M Rousseau; 1922; no. 23
Louis Dimier; Les Peintres Français du XVIII Siecle; 2 vols; Paris; Les Editions G.Van Oest; 1928-1930; no. 118
Hélène Adhémar; Watteau: sa vie, son oeuvre; Paris; Tisné; 1950; p. 215, no. 120; as poor quality copy
Sir Francis Watson, The Art Collections at Waddesdon Manor I: The Paintings, Apollo, 69, June 1959, 172-182; p. 182, fig. 24
Anita Brookner, French Pictures at Waddesdon, The Burlington Magazine, 101, 1959, 271-273; p. 273
Michael Levey, French and Italian Paintings at Waddesdon, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 54, August 1959, 57-66; p. 57
Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; p. 290, no. 137
Ettore Camesasca, John Sunderland; The complete paintings of Watteau; London; Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 1971; pp. 122-123, no. 196; as poor copy
François Moreau, Margaret Morgan Grasselli; Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) le peintre, son temps et sa legende; Geneva; Editions Clairefontaine; 1987; pp. 274-5; on the original formerly in Iveagh collection, now LACMA
Mark Girouard, Insatiable and discerning: Curiosity-hunting with the Rothschilds, Apollo, 139, 1994, 14-19; p. 14, fig. 1; illustration of installation in Edmond de Rothschild's home
Martin Eidelberg; Watteau et la Fête Galante; Valenciennnes, Musee des Beaux-Arts, 5 March-14 June 2004; Paris; Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux; 2004; pp. 198-200, no. 56; on LACMA painting

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