About this artwork

Watteau shows a young couple in an idyllic woodland setting. The girl rests her arm on the young man’s knee while he examines a sparrow’s nest that he has just taken from a tree to show her. The romantic setting is emphasised by the roses on the rock beside them. The painting was engraved in 1727 by François Boucher for Jean de Jullienne’s book on Watteau’s oeuvre. The print reveals that this painting was originally larger and set in a ‘frame’ of painted arabesques. It was cut down to its present size some time between 1767 and 1816. Traces of the decorative paintwork are still visible at the top of the picture, as older paint used to hide them has become translucent.

Updated before 2020

  • artist:
  • title:
    The Robber of the Sparrow's Nest
  • date created:
    About 1712
  • materials:
    Oil on paper laid on canvas, laid on panel
  • measurements:
    22.60 x 18.50 cm (framed: 41.28 x 36.52 x 8.58 cm)
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Presented by Mrs Hugh William Williams 1860
  • accession number:
    NG 370
  • gallery:
  • subject:
  • photographer:
    Antonia Reeve
Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? Tell us what you think.

Jean-Antoine Watteau

Jean-Antoine Watteau