(b Paris, Aug 28, 1718; d Paris, Jan 12, 1786).
French government official, writer, collector and amateur painter and engraver. He was the son of Nicolas-Robert Watelet, Receveur-général des Finances in Orléans, and in 1740 inherited his father’s lucrative post, as well as the family fortune. In his youth he travelled in Germany and to Vienna, Naples and Rome; in the latter city he lodged with the Painter to the King, Jean-Baptiste Pierre. By the late 1750s Watelet’s country house near Paris, Le Moulin-Joli, had become a meeting-place for intellectual society, being frequented, among others, by the Comte de Caylus, the Marquis d’Argenson, the poet Jean-François Marmontel (1723–99), the Abbé Jacques Delille (1738–1813) and the Marquise de Pompadour. With their encouragement Watelet published in 1760 L’Art de peindre, a long didactic poem on the principles and techniques of painting, which won him election in 1760 to the Académie Française.
In 1763 Watelet, accompanied by his mistress, Mme Marguerite Le Comte, and by his former teacher, the Abbé Copette, made a journey to Italy, where they were official guests of the King of Sardinia, the French Embassy and the Académie de France in Rome. The trip was commemorated by the publication in ...