Watteau’s Pilgrimage to Cythera and the Subversive Utopia of the Opera-Ballet
“Watteau’s Pilgrimage to Cythera and the Subversive Utopia of the Opera-Ballet.”
The Art Bulletin, vol. 83, no. 3 (September, 2001), 461-78.
This essay traces the ideology and imagery of Watteau’s Pilgrimage to Cythera to sources in the contemporary opera-ballet. Focusing on two ballets (Le triomphe des arts and Les amours déguisez) and related works produced at the Paris Opéra between 1696 and 1713, it examines their protest of Louis XIV’s absolutism through the satiric reversal of court ballets with the same title from his early reign. Relating these works to Watteau’s Pilgrimage, it explores the locus amoenus of Cythera as the site of political critique and traces the ways in which Cytherean imagery, based on actual stage sets of the ballet at the Paris Opéra, is used to undermine the iconography of royal propaganda.