Jean-Honore Fragonard:
The Lover Crowned

Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Oil on Canvas
    • c. 1771-73
    • Frick Collection, New York

  In 1771, Fragonard was commissioned to paint a series of panels for the chateau at Louveciennes, the "love nest" of Madame du Barry, the beautiful mistress of Louis XV. His assigned theme was "The Progress of Love," and Fragonard selected to illustrate a variety of stratagems and tactics which lovers have always used. Like its companion piece, the "Meeting", this panel is set in a luscious, albeit imaginary garden. Its title is "The Lover Crowned," and while it may describe only the delicate pose which the couple strike for their friend to sketch, the obvious erotic implications are that the young man has received more than just a crown.

These beautiful pictures, however, were returned by Mme du Barry and it seems that artistic taste was already turning against Fragonard's lighthearted style. He tried unsuccessfully to adapt himself to the new Neoclassical vogue, but in spite of the admiration and support of David he was ruined by the Revolution and died in poverty.

What kind of reaction does the artist expect from this work? Why has he placed the action in such a clearly fictional landscape? What are the elements that make the scene seem so peaceful and yet charged with passion?

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