The Wedding Breakfast
(Le repas de noces de village)
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Oil painting on panel depicting a wedding breakfast with a dancing couple and the feast behind. Trees appear in the background. A house appears to the left background.
In the left foreground, a man reclines. In the right foreground sit two men, one with a tricorn hat, convering with two seated women dressed in fashionable clothes with flowers in their hair. To the left of this group, a dog watches the people at the table to the right. On the left, behind the reclining men, there are three low-class musicians, a man and woman who play violin and a more smartly dressed man with a tricon hat playing a pipe. To the right of the musicians, a well-dressed man and woman dances. The man's left hand joins the woman's left hand over her head, whilst their other hands are joined in front of the man's body. The man's thigh-length jacket swings out behind him. He wears a fluffy feather in his hat. The woman wears a pink silk low cut dress with an ankle-length full-skirt. To the right, slightly back stand four observers, including a middle-aged woman wearing a cap with long lappets and a full-length dress with a tight bodice. She places her right-hand on her hip. Her left is held by a gentleman who looks at her, with his hat under his arm. They appear to be preparing to dance. Behind them there is another man and woman, similarly dressed.
To the right of this group, there is the table laden with food, behind which sits six men and woman. One man sits on the lap of a woman. A portly gentleman sits in front of the table watching the dancers. He rests his wine glass on the table. There is an upturned bowl or a purse on the ground between his legs. To the right of him, there is a seated woman recoiling from the embrace of a man and a standing woman wearing a cap with long lappets, and a red skirt, perhaps a servant. Behind the table there are four figures, a woman and three men. One of the men holds up a large carafe to his mouth. Above the table, a large sheet is stretched between the trees to provide a canopy.
Village scenes were a popular subject with the followers of Antoine Watteau including Jean-Baptiste Pater and Nicolas Lancret. This painting is distinct for its depiction of a more refined celebration. It is closer to the elegant paintings of Watteau than the 17th-century Flemish artists who also influenced Lancret's work.
This is a particularly fine painting by an artist sometimes dismissed because of his apparent hard style. It could well be Lancret's last treatment of the theme of the village wedding. The composition has a greater courtliness and ease than the depictions of peasant festivities made earlier in his career. A number of Watteau-style features have been incorporated notably in the group in the foreground and the girl with her hands to her bosom at the end of the table on the right. The music is played by professional musicians and entertainers rather than the peasants who featured in Lancret's earlier paintings.
Lancret was one of a number of artists who developed Watteau's genre of the 'Fête Galante' - delightful scenes of gatherings of well-dressed people in the countryside. The theme was taken up also in contemporary theatre. Lancret trained in Paris under the same teacher as Watteau, and his work was sometimes mistaken for his contemporary. He gained success with such scenes of village life including dances and fairs.
The painting now has a companion piece, also at Waddesdon (acc. no. 2459.1). The other painting is more Flemish in character, reminiscent of the works of David Teniers. They were probably not originally painted together. This painting has added strips of wood to make it bigger, visible at the upper and right-hand edges. These were added after the painting was made probably to match the size of the other panel. However, the style of painting on the extra strips looks very similar to the main panel and may well have been painted by Lancret. They may have been added after a patron acquired both the village wedding and this painting, and wanted to make them the same size so they could be displayed together. A similar pair of paintings by Lancret of a wedding dance and wedding feast are in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Angers.
Displayed in the Tower Drawing Room along with other French works, this was one of a few 18th-century French paintings bought by Ferdinand de Rothschild. Rococo paintings were not in vogue with Victorian collectors in England at this time. Ferdinand seems to have followed this trend, despite his love of French 18th-century furniture and decorative art.
Phillippa Plock, 2011
Dimensions (mm) / weight (mg)
442 x 582
Signature & date
not signed or dated
Wall right of fireplace
[verso, frame, upper right, pencil]
[verso, frame, upper centre, pencil]
[verso, frame, upper right, blue chalk]
Right of fireplace (Bottom)
[verso, on frame, lower left]
[verso, on frame, lower left, round label]
Lancret (Right fireplace)
[verso, on panel, lower left]
[verso, on panel, lower left, round label]
[verso, on frame, upper left, round label]
[verso, on frame, upper right, round label]
- Acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898); 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.
- 'Three French Reigns', 25 Park Lane, London, 1933, organised by Sir Philip Sassoon, lent by James de Rothschild, with pendant, as nos 21 and 27 (Breakfast).
- Waddesdon (National Trust)
- Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957
- Three French Reigns (Louis XIV, XV & XVI) Loan Exhibition in Aid of the Royal Northern Hospital; 25 Park Lane, London, 21 February - 5 April 1933; London; Royal Northern Hospital; 1933; no. 27
- Nancy Mitford; Madame de Pompadour; London; The Reprint Society (London); 1955; pp. 226-7, ill.
- Anita Brookner, French Pictures at Waddesdon, The Burlington Magazine, 101, 1959, 271-273; p. 272; as the last treatment of this theme, 1737-1740
- Michael Levey, French and Italian Paintings at Waddesdon, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 54, August 1959, 57-66; p. 60, fig. 5
- Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; p. 258, cat. no. 118, ill.; as 'Le repas de noces de village'
- 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; p. 146, fig. 30.1
- Nature, Landscape & The Elements/Countryside
- Nature, Landscape & The Elements/Trees & Plants
- Work & Occupations/Social Rank/Lower Classes
- Work & Occupations/Social Rank/Middling Classes
- Everyday Life/Eating & Drinking
- Objects/Food & Drink
- Objects/Food & Drink/Alcohol
- Objects/Vessels & Containers/Jug or Ewer
- Objects/Musical Instruments/Violin
- Objects/Musical Instruments/Recorder
- Everyday Life/Entertainment/Dancing
- Everyday Life/Entertainment/Conversation
- Everyday Life/Relationships/Courtship & Marriage
- Work & Occupations/Domestic Service/Servant
- Everyday Life/Violence/Sexual Violence
- Work & Occupations/Arts & Entertainment/Musician
- Objects/Currency/Coins, Notes & Moneybags