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The central figure is dressed as the commedia dell'arte character Mezzetin, the rascally valet and musician. The existence of a drawing for his head, inscribed ‘Syroie’, suggests that it is also a portrait of Watteau's friend the dealer Pierre Sirois (1665–1726). Watteau may thus be making a witty reference to Sirois's own unpredictable nature. The mixture of theatrical and contemporary costumes adds an additional note of ambiguity; like Shakespeare, Watteau saw the illusion of the theatre and the deception of the real world as interchangeable. Despite the discoloured varnish, the picture is one of the few paintings by the artist to retain something of its scintillating surface texture.

The Wallace Collection



Sous un habit de Mezetin




oil on walnut panel


H 27.1 x W 19 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

acquired by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, 1846; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897

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The Wallace Collection

Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, Greater London W1U 3BN England

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