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slant

the Rococo

AROUND 1720, the French artist Jean-Antoine Watteau painted a signboard for his dealer’s shop that depicted an idealized view of the gallery on Paris’s Pont Notre-Dame. Downplaying its commercial status, Watteau portrayed the shop as a setting for elite sociability, while heralding the new aesthetics of the Rococo, then known as le style moderne. At the signboard’s right, a trio of elegant customers ignore the old-master paintings on the walls and politely converse with a gallery assistant about a gilded table mirror and other objets d’art. Behind them, two visitors, one a man and the other a woman, inspect a large circular canvas that shows female nudes frolicking in a pastel-colored landscape. The man’s gaze is firmly fixed on the nude bodies themselves while the woman, brandishing a magnifying glass, admires the painting’s loose, sensuous brushwork. To the left, a chic young lady dressed

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