Antoine Watteau painted his engaging and ravishing 'fetes galantes' during a period in which the art of polite conversation flousrished in France. In this innovative study, Mary Vidal shows that conversation was central to Watteau's images of socialibility, providing the framework for figural and formal relationships even in his military, mythological, theatrical, and religious works. Vidal argues that Watteau's painted conversations were not mere literal descriptions of social behavior but represented conversation as part of an aesthetic, linguistic, and ethical system, as an art of living. Vidal shows that Watteau's focus on conversation was related to developments in seventeenth-and eighteenth-century France: the rise and elaboration of an art of conversation, the connection between polite discourse and the redefinition of the nobility, the flourishing of women's salons in Paris and the development of the literary genre of the written conversation. In his conversational artmaking, Watteau set up complex dialogic relationships between spoken words and images, art and society, viewers and viewed.