In this week’s episode of “Travels with a Curator,” travel with Xavier F. Salomon, Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, to Valenciennes, the birthplace of the Rococo painter Jean-Antoine Watteau. Delve into the historical events surrounding Watteau’s “Portal at Valenciennes” (ca. 1710–11), a scene of soldiers at rest near the ramparts of the town. Known for his depictions of garden frolics, Watteau seldom portrayed military life—“The Portal” is one of only three such paintings that survive today.
Valenciennes is a commune in the Nord department in northern France. It lies on the Scheldt river. Although the city and region experienced a steady population decline between 1975 and 1990, it has since rebounded.