Fragonard repeated the compositions of the small pendant paintings known as Love as Folly and
For other examples, see Pierre Rosenberg, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Fragonard (Paris, 1989), nos. 288, 292a. According to an account of 1807, Fragonard repeated the compositions no less than twelve times (see Jean-Pierre Cuzin, Fragonard, Life and Work [New York, 1988; French ed. Paris, 1987], 308).
Scholars usually have dated the various versions of the compositions to the early 1770s on the basis of style. Their light color scheme, rapid brushwork, and lighthearted subjects are similar to numerous small paintings, often in oval format, that Fragonard produced in the years around 1770.
Pierre Rosenberg, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Fragonard (Paris, 1989), nos. 154 – 160, 235 – 243.
See Donald Posner, “The True Path of Fragonard’s Progress of Love,” Burlington Magazine 114, no. 833 (Aug. 1972): 526 – 534.
The precise relationship between the various versions of Love as Folly and Love the Sentinel and the Frick’s overdoors is difficult to determine. It is not certain when Fragonard painted the latter pictures, which are not usually thought to have been part of the original commission for Madame du Barry in the early 1770s. After the main panels of The Progress of Love were rejected by their patron, Fragonard purportedly kept them rolled in his studio until he returned to his native Grasse in 1790. There he installed the cycle in the house of his cousin, Alexandre Maubert. At that time he added several new paintings to the series, including a fifth large panel, a group of narrow canvases representing hollyhocks, and a chimneypiece, Love Triumphant, showing a group of putti rising — appropriately enough — through clouds of smoke, the top figure holding two flaming torches.
See Jean-Pierre Cuzin, Fragonard, Life and Work (New York, 1988; French ed. Paris, 1987), 233; Georges Wildenstein, The Paintings of Fragonard: Complete Edition (New York, 1960), 31; Love Triumphant is catalogued by Pierre Rosenberg, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Fragonard (Paris, 1989), no. 445.
The traditional dating of 1790 – 1791 for the overdoors is followed by Roger Portalis, Honoré Fragonard: sa vie et son oeuvre, 2 vols. (Paris, 1889), 102, 239; Georges Wildenstein, The Paintings of Fragonard: Complete Edition (New York, 1960), 268, 320; Jean-Pierre Cuzin, Fragonard, Life and Work (New York, 1988; French ed. Paris, 1987), 335 – 336.
A version of Love the Sentinel appeared in the marquis d’Arcambal sale, February 22, 1776, lot 27 (cited in Pierre Rosenberg, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Fragonard [Paris, 1989], 124).
René Gimpel, Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Fragonard, at the Galleries of E. Gimpel & Wildenstein (New York, 1914), 8 – 9. Portalis (in Roger Portalis, Honoré Fragonard: sa vie et son oeuvre, 2 vols. [Paris, 1889], 102) implied as much.
Pierre Rosenberg, Fragonard (Paris, 1987), 322 – 323. Rosenberg (Pierre Rosenberg, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Fragonard [Paris, 1989], 22) notes that Fragonard was paid 18,000 livres for the du Barry commission, while Jean Marie Vien, the artist who painted the replacements, was paid 16,000; he plausibly suggests that Fragonard’s commission was higher because he painted overdoors to go with the four main panels. He does not exclude the possibility that one of the overdoors, Love the Avenger, was repainted in Grasse. On the dating of the overdoors, see also Jean Montague Massengale, Jean-Honoré Fragonard (New York, 1993), 44.
This text was previously published in Philip Conisbee et al., French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue (Washington, DC, 2009), 167–172.
Collection data may have been updated since the publication of the print volume. Additional light adaptations have been made for the presentation of this text online.
January 1, 2009
lower center: frago
Possibly (Dennoor sale, Le Brun, Paris, 5-7 April 1797, no. 73). Rothschild collections, probably Paris and London. Andrew W. Mellon [1855-1937], Pittsburgh and Washington, by 1934; by inheritance to his daughter, Ailsa Mellon Bruce [1901-1969], New York; bequest 1970 to NGA.
- Three French Reigns (Louis XIV, XV & XVI): Loan Exhibition in Aid of the Royal Northern Hospital, 25 Park Lane, London, 1933, no. 119, repro.
- Exhibition of French Painting from the Fifteenth Century to the Present Day, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1934, no. 28, repro.
- French Painting and Sculpture of the Eighteenth Century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1935-1936, no. 48, repro.
- Fragonard and His Friends: Changing Ideals in Eighteenth Century Art, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1982-1983, no. 21.
- Wildenstein, Georges. The Paintings of Fragonard. New York, 1960: no. 321, repro.
- Mandel, Gabriele. L'Opera completa di Fragonard. Milan, 1972: no. 345, repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 134, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 338, no. 453, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 160, repro.
- Cuzin, Jean-Pierre. "Jean-Honoré Fragonard: Vie et oeuvre." Fribourg, 1987. English edition New York, 1988: 308-309, nos. 256-257, repro.
- Rosenberg, Pierre. Tout l'oeuvre peint de Fragonard. Paris, 1989: 102, no. 284-285, repro.
- Conisbee, Philip, et al. French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2009: no. 32, 167-172, color repro.
Both Love as Folly and
The condition of both paintings is good. Love as Folly has a moderate amount of inpainting, mostly around the edges and along a horizontal band that goes through the center of the painting. In Love the Sentinel, there is inpainting around the perimeter of the painting, but it is hidden by the frame. There are a few small areas of inpaint in the center of the sky, in the right-hand bushes, in the sky above the birds, and below the arrow quiver. The varnish on both paintings remains clear, but the inpainting of Love the Sentinel has discolored.