Mezzetin (c1719). Oil on canvas. 55 x 43. Mezzetino is a 1718-1719 painting by French painter Antoine Watteau, showing the Commedia dell'arte character of the same name. It was once owned by Catherine II of Russia, and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Mezzetino was a comedy character, based on Harlequin but with his own distinctive costume, who was introduced for the first time by the Théâtre italien de Paris actor Angelo Costantini on October 16, 1683. Constantini's expressive face allowed him to portray the role without a mask, a tradition kept alive by all successive Mezzetinos. That novelty attracted Watteau, who featured Mezzetino in several of his works. In the picture Mezzetino is playing his guitar and singing, his eyes lifted as if towards an unseen balcony. The statue of Venus behind him is facing away, suggesting that his feelings are not shared by the lady she represents. Although the model for Mezzetino is not known, the fact that Jean de Jullienne, the friend and patron of Watteau, kept the painting all his life suggests he may have fulfilled the role. The picture was later engraved by Audran the Elder for a collection in two volumes of the works of Watteau, published by Jullienne, who devoted a portion of his fortune to memorializing the works of his late good friend. The work may be found in the Metropolitan Museum's Gallery 630.
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