Antoine Watteau - The Embarkation to Kythera

by Alexandra Tuschka


Watteau worked extensively on the motif of the "Embarkation to Kythera" because he wanted to apply to the Paris Academy with it. In 1718 he submitted a third version, with which he finally succeeded. Watteau's paintings are closely associated with the term "fetes galantes". This refers to the depiction of couples in love or social gatherings, such as we find here.

There is no discernible plot line in this work - rather, the motif resembles a snapshot. People want to enjoy the relaxed get-together in nature. The island of Kythera offers the perfect vacation destination for this - an island far away from the hustle and bustle and worries of the everyday world.


In the center of the picture is a woman in a yellow robe, who is being led by her companion in the direction of the ship. She casts a glance back at the people in the right background of the picture. There a statue of Venus frames the picture. Some putti enliven the scene. Liaisons are obviously quickly made here - no one is seen here alone and without a partner.


It remains controversial whether the painting really shows the "embarkation" to Kythera or not rather the "departure" from the island back to the mainland. Why else would the lady in yellow cast such a longing look back?


Antoine Watteau - The Embarkation to Kythera

Oil on canvas, 1718, 130 x 192 cm, Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin