Average: 4.7 (3 votes)
ezuckerman's picture


Mezzetin by Jean Antoine Watteau is named for the stock type character the portrait portrays.

Mezzetins were musical, comical characters in the commedia dell’arte, an Italian genre of theatre that Watteau certainly watched when they came through Paris.

Watteau loved the theatre and drew inspiration for his paintings from them often. The commedia dell’arte was a somewhat unique genre, as it was mostly improvisational. Actors would have some general idea of a story, usually one of unrequited  love, but most of the action and lines were improvised. We know this man with the guitar is the mezzetin, mostly because of his outfit - the classy stripey shirt, the cape, the guitar, and the sexy floppy hat and ruffle collar, me-OW!

Mezzetins were generally silly, pulling pranks and playing plenty of lovelorn songs. They even had their own little bits, so I’m sure they were as annoying as the usual drama student in real life. His rosy complexion, intense expression and muscular calves and hands show a real intensity to this portrayal, and we can guess he is right in the middle of a particularly heartbreaking little ditty about a lost love. Probably that statue in the back represents the Mezzetin’s love interest, who with her backed turned is telling him what I should’ve told the improv guys I’ve met through tinder- Nah dude.

It’s not all sad though, look at him rolling his eyes in a way only my middle school self could compete with, clearly he is more exasperated at the statue than really in love with it. This painting is a bit smaller, as it was designed for richy-riches who started collecting art around the time Watteau was working. By this time, no one had been saved from the traveling improv group and it would be easy to recognize the goofball in this painting as a general character.

This painting was special though. Besides it’s very expressive subject and pretty pink fabric, it was eventually owned by Catherine the Great. Why she’d invite an improv guy into her tasteful home is lost on me, but I’m not bitter.



  1. "Mezzetin." Accessed March 29, 2019.
  2. Meagher, Jennifer. “Commedia dell’arte.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (July 2007).
  3. Wehle, Harry B. "Le Mezzetin by Antoine Watteau." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 30, no. 1 (January 1935): 12-18. Accessed March 29, 2019. JStor
  4. Baetjer, Katharine, and Cowart, Georgia. Watteau, Music, and Theater. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.

Comments (1)


i thought that was a hot pic of me in high school: angsty, pink hair, drama improv theatre kid, guitar, weird outfit