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Charles Willson Peale
Benjamin and Eleanor Ridgely Laming
1788
National Gallery of Art
"American Stories"
Metropolitan Museum of Art
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MERRY AMERICA
by Michèle C. Cone



For Jean-Antoine Watteau, the French 18th-century painter of fètes galantes, opera ballets and commedia dellíarte, music was the melodious accompaniment of courtship and a ready ingredient in sexual conquest. The guitar was the instrument of choice, and its guttural sensuality would seem to have had an irresistible effect on the serenaded couples. To wit, the musician surveying his musicís effect on an nearby amorouscouple in Watteauís famous La Surprise (ca. 1718), currently on view in "Watteau, Music, and Theater" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sept. 21-Nov. 29, 2009.

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