Jean-Honore Fragonard:
Education of the Virgin


Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Oil on Canvas: 1773
    • 33 1/8 x 45 1/4 inches
    • Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

 Fragonard's scenes of frivolity and gallantry are considered the embodiment of the Rococo spirit. A pupil of Chardin and later Boucher, he won the Prix de Rome and from 1756 to 1761 was in Italy, where he developed a particular admiration for Tiepolo and the late Baroque style. In this period he specialized in large historical and religious paintings.

Returning to Paris, he soon changed this style, adopting instead the erotic subjects then in vogue and for which he is chiefly known. After his marriage in 1769, he began painting children and family scenes (usually called genre painting) and even returned to religious subjects.

This painting is in the religious tradition of the late Baroque. It shows a clearly aged St. Anne, teaching her daughter, Mary. Despite its serious subject matter, Fragonard imbued this charming picture with gaiety, lightness, and even voluptuousness. St. Anne looks more like a countess than a Judean peasant. Like all of his works, it is characterized by fluid lines, frothy decorations, and gracefully posed figures.

What religious feelings does it intend to induce in the viewer? Compared to the earlier works by Le Brun, what does this painting say about the religious sensibility at the end of the 18th century?

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