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© The Frick Collection
Jean-Antoine Watteau  (1684−1721)
The Portal of Valenciennes, ca. 1710−11
Oil on canvas (lined)
12 3/4 x 16 in. (32.4 x 40.6 cm)
Framed: 18 11/16 × 21 5/8 in. (47.5 × 54.9 cm)
Purchased with funds from the bequest of Arthemise Redpath, 1991
Accession number: 1991.1.173
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North Hall (138)
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Watteau’s only known guard scene (as opposed to a march or camp scene), this is one of his best preserved paintings of military life. Suffused with golden light, two pairs of soldiers converse across the space of the picture, while the three other figures in the foreground have withdrawn into sleep or reverie. The enigmatic exchanges among these men transform an otherwise prosaic moment into a moving image of the social conditions of military life and the fragility of human connection. Despite its title, added in 1912, there is little evidence that the painting depicts the artist’s hometown of Valenciennes, where he returned for a brief visit in 1710.

This work was included in the exhibition Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France.


Théophile-Étienne-Joseph Thoré, Paris, probably after 1859. His sale (posthumous), Hôtel Drouot, Paris, December 5, 1892, Lot 39, sold for 2,250 francs. Jacques Doucet, Paris. His sale, Paris, June 6, 1912, Lot 192, repr., sold for 56,000 francs. Albert Lehmann, Paris. His sale, Paris, June 8, 1925, Lot 222, repr., sold for 96,000 francs. [By 1928] Otto Bemberg, Paris, 1961. Luis Bemberg and by descent. Sotheby’s, London, December 12, 1990, Lot 7, repr., sold for £530,000. Colnaghi, New York. Sold to the Frick Collection, February 15, 1991, purchased with funds from the bequest of Arthemise Redpath.

Source: The Frick Collection: Drawings, Prints & Later Acquisitions. Volume IX. New York: The Frick Collection, 2003.