Jean-Honore Fragonard:
The Stolen Kiss

Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Detail of a Painting in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg
    • Oil on Canvas
    • Metropolitan Museum of Art

Fragonard first painted in a style suitable to his religious and historical subjects. After 1765, however, he worked in the rococo style then fashionable in France. These later paintings, the works for which he is best known, reflect the gaiety, frivolity, and voluptuousness of the period. They are characterized by fluid lines, frothy flowers amid loose foliage, and gracefully posed figures, usually of ladies and their lovers or peasant mothers with children.

Fragonard was a prolific painter, but he rarely dated his works and it is not easy to chart his stylistic development. This particular painting is a detail from a larger painting which is in the Hermitage in Petersburg. Fragonard may have executed this copy himself, for it shows his delicate coloring and spontaneous brushwork which gives the picture an irresistible verve and joyfulness. As always with Fragonard, more important than the subject matter are the soft tones and colors of the palate.

What do these aspects say about the self-conscious image of French aristocrats on the eve of the revolution? Can this picture be analyzed in terms of the mores of contemporary French society?

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