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18th-Century France — Boucher and Fragonard

A young woman draws on an oval surface with white chalk while three winged, baby-like putti gather nearby, all on a bank of pale pink clouds in this horizontal painting. The woman and putti have pale, rosy skin, flushed cheeks, and hazel-brown eyes. To our left, the woman reclines with her upper body propped up on her far elbow, which rests on a steel-blue cushion as her legs stretch out to our right. Her light brown hair is braided and wrapped across the top of her head. She wears a loose, seafoam-green robe over a billowing ivory-white garment that has slipped off the shoulder closer to us. A round paint palette with brushes sticking out of its thumb hole and a roll of blue and white paper sit in the lower left corner, behind the woman. The woman and the objects are on a red cloth.  In front of the woman is a rounded surface, perhaps a canvas, on which she draws. She holds up a gold-colored stylus with her right hand, closer to us, with a pointed piece of white chalk in one end and black chalk in the other. The canvas is taller than her head, so the child-like putto she draws on it is life-sized. The three nude putti on the far side of the canvas have copper or golden-blond, curly hair, flushed, rounded cheeks, short wings in white or peacock blue, pudgy torsos, and dimpled limbs. One putto, presumably the one the woman draws, sits back on the bank of clouds with a carnation-pink sash across his chest. He pulls his chin back and looks at her from under his eyebrows. He holds a gold-colored torch with a pink flame in one hand, and the other hand rests near a cylindrical quiver of arrows. Another putto peeks around the side of the canvas, and the third stands and props the canvas up. That third putto holds up a wreath of laurel leaves up over the canvas, above the woman’s drawing hand. The bank of clouds is parchment-brown with muted pink and blue highlights against a vivid blue sky. The artist signed and dated the lower right, “F Boucher – 1765.”



The Enlightenment

During the eighteenth century, Enlightenment thinkers transformed western Europe into a modern society. Critical of orthodoxy, these philosophes radically changed the way men thought about religion, economics, political philosophy, and education. Their method was rational and secular, founded on a belief that the exercise of reason alone could reveal ultimate truths and move man to improve his condition.

Montesquieu analyzed the forms of government to discover the "spirit" behind them. In despotism he found fear; in the republic, virtue. The Enlightenment invested man with "inalienable rights." It led eventually to revolution in the American colonies and France, and in the process created a climate for art that served a "higher" purpose. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who contrasted the innate virtue of man in his natural state with the artifice of civilization, noted that the prevailing rococo style "contributed little to . . . public virtue."

The Salon

Beginning in 1737, the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture presented a public exhibition about every two years of up to 450 paintings and sculpture in the Salon Carré, a great square hall in the Louvre palace. From this location, the expositions themselves came to be called Salons.

In the active intellectual climate of the eighteenth century, the Salons presented yet another arena for inquiry. Newspapers described the works exhibited, and the Academy sold programs. Unofficial guides were also written. Although often anonymous and circulated privately, these guides established art criticism as a subject of intelligent discourse. The most perceptive and influential of the new critics was the encyclopedist Denis Diderot. His preference for art that was morally uplifting fueled growing sentiment against the sensuous and decorative rococo style.

François Boucher, French, 1703 - 1770, Allegory of Painting, 1765, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1946.7.1

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A woman wearing flowing, pastel-colored robes and two, winged, child-like putti gather on a bank of clouds among musical instruments and sheet music in this horizontal painting. The people all have pale, pink-tinged skin. The woman sits to our right of center, facing our left in profile. She has straight nose, a rounded chin, and her small, pink lips are closed. Her ash-blond hair is pulled back under a yellow band. A voluminous white robe falls away over her left shoulder, to our right, to reveal a firm breast and small pink nipple. Sky-blue drapery wraps over her far arm, and deep rose-pink cloth falls across her lap and onto the clouds around her. Her legs extend to our left, her toes pointed. She leans back on her left elbow, closer to us, and points with that index finger to a lyre she props against her knee with her other hand. One chubby, nude putto reaches forward to strum the strings. The other putto hovers above, holding a ring of laurel leaves up in one hand and a flute in the other. Both putti have chubby limbs and torsos, blond curls lifted as if in a breeze, and short, ice-blue wings. Both look at the woman. In the lower left corner, a helmet with a topaz-blue feather and the gold hilt of a sword sit near the woman’s feet. Beneath the woman’s lower leg, at the bottom center of the painting, is a gold horn encircled by another wreath of laurel leaves. Two white doves with wings spread support an open book of sheet music and two pink roses tucked under the woman’s bent elbow. Fog-gray clouds billow up both sides of the scene against a pale blue sky. The clouds on which the trio gathers are parchment brown shaded with mauve pink. The outer corners of the image are white, indicating that the corners of the canvas were rounded. The artist signed and dated the painting in the lower right corner, “F Boucher 1764.”

Boucher and Fragonard

The criticism of Diderot and others stimulated artists to a new seriousness but did not change the pastel complexion of rococo overnight, as demonstrated by the works of Boucher and Fragonard in the Gallery, all done after 1750.

Boucher was influenced by the subjects and delicate manner of Watteau's fêtes galantes, which he had copied for published engravings. He soon came to the attention of the king's mistress, Madame de Pompadour, and rose to prominence under her patronage. In addition to a productive career as a painter, he was also the principal designer for Sèvres porcelain and the Beauvais tapestry works, both projects dear to Madame de Pompadour. Boucher imparted the intimacy of the boudoir to all of his subjects, whether domestic scenes, pastoral idylls, or mythological themes.

Fragonard began to study painting first with Chardin, then with Boucher, adopting the latter's subjects but painting with a freer technique. He won both admiration for his fluid brushwork and criticism for the dashed, unfinished look of his canvases. During study in Italy he sketched Renaissance gardens, and these continued to haunt his expansive outdoor scenes peopled with tiny figures.

Fragonard's popularity made him wealthy, but he outlived his own era. Even before the revolution, sober neoclassical styles were replacing the giddiness of rococo. Fragonard was forced to flee France as the world he portrayed and the patrons he served fell to the guillotine.

François Boucher, French, 1703 - 1770, Allegory of Music, 1764, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1946.7.2

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A nude woman and three small, winged children gather among bushes and lush vegetation at the edge of a clear pool in this vertical painting. All four have pale skin and blond hair. The children are pudgy with baby-like proportions and have short gray and blue wings. The woman half reclines on swaths of white, pale pink, and peacock-blue fabric draped across the bushes or the ground. She leans her torso to our left and leans toward that elbow, which is propped up on the fabric. The toes of her right foot, on our left, brush the ground near the water, and her other leg is angled to continue the diagonal created by her elbow and torso. Two white doves nestle by her lower foot. Her ash-blond hair is bound up with pearls, and she has rosy cheeks, pink bow lips, and smooth skin. She reaches across her body and down to our left to touch a nearly nude young boy. He wears a butter-yellow garment pulled up around his chest, perhaps by the woman. A quiver of arrows hangs from a blue ribbon at his side, and he raises his hands before him, toward the woman's arm. To our right, one of the other children reclines on the pink and blue drapery and faces the woman in profile. The third child leans forward from the bushes behind the reclining child. The bushes and trees of the lush forest around the figures creates a V-shape with the people at the center. Vibrant blue sky fills the upper left quarter of the painting.

This painting belonged to Madame de Pompadour and, with a companion work, was probably part of the decoration at her quarters at Versailles or the chateau at Bellevue given her by the king.

Youthful and engaging, the goddess of love disarms Cupid of the arrows he uses to inflict desire. It has been suggested that Boucher's young wife, or even Madame de Pompadour, posed for Venus, but it is more likely that the goddess is simply an ideal of beauty, as soft and appealing as the luxurious silks that surround her. Boucher has used the mythological scene, not to tell a story of gods or heroes, but simply to capture the goddess with clear pastel tones and silvery light.

Artists sought commissions from Madame de Pompadour not only for the prestige of working for the king's mistress, but also because she paid her bills promptly. Others among the aristocracy were plagued with financial difficulties, "treading," one wrote, "on a bed of roses that covered an abyss."

François Boucher, French, 1703 - 1770, The Bath of Venus, 1751, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, 1943.7.2

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Close to us, a woman and a winged, child-like putto float on clouds above a clean-shaven young man in a forest setting in this horizontal painting. All three people have smooth, pale skin, rosy cheeks, and ash-blond hair. The man reclines with his torso propped so his feet extend along the rocky ground to our left. He rests his head in his right hand, farther from us, with that elbow resting on a rock. We look up onto the underside of his chin and delicate features. A scarlet-red robe falls from his shoulders and across his hips. One knee is propped up, and that foot is tucked behind his other ankle. His muscular torso, arms, and legs are bare. His left hand, closer to us, rests by his side and loosely holds a staff. Three tan-colored sheep with long faces lie or stand behind the man, in the lower right corner of the painting. A light gray hound dog with floppy ears sleeps with its drooping muzzle resting on its paws in the shadows at the man’s feet. The woman floats just above the man, reclining on a fog-gray cloud with her feet angled toward the man’s torso. Her curls are held back by a topaz-blue ribbon, and she looks down at the man, a faint smile on her lips. A loose white garment partially covered by a blue robe falls from her shoulders, leaving one breast and one leg bare. She reaches outward with her left hand, palm out, and the other hand rests down on the cloud alongside her. A sharply pointed, luminous crescent moon curves up to each side behind the cloud. The chubby, nude, baby-like putto nestles on his belly in a cloud between the man and woman. He has short, tousled hair, stubby wings, and his skin is flushed pink. An arrow held in one hand points toward the man, and the putto rests his other hand in a bunch of pink roses. Plants and flowers grow in patches on the ground around the man. The sky above is framed with steel-gray clouds against pale blue.

In this scene Diana, virgin goddess of the hunt, steals forth through the moonlight to kiss the sleeping shepherd Endymion, whom the gods granted eternal sleep to preserve his beauty and youth. Diana and Endymion was painted when Fragonard was still a student at the Academy and heavily influenced by Boucher, who was his teacher. It was one of several mythological vignettes set at different times of the day; another depicts Aurora (Dawn) rising. Both compositions, painted as over-door decorations, were based on designs Boucher had done for the Beauvais tapestry works. Despite similarities to the older artist's work, Diana and Endymion already displays important elements of what would become Fragonard's own style: rich colors and a fluid handling of paint.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French, 1732 - 1806, Diana and Endymion, c. 1753/1756, oil on canvas, Timken Collection, 1960.6.2

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In a lush, tree-lined park, filtered light falls across a group of about a dozen light-skinned people lounging and frolicking along the banks of a river in this vertical landscape painting. A man wearing a shell-pink jacket and pants and woman wearing a topaz-blue, full-skirted dress and rose-pink bonnet sit near each other in the lower left corner. Several younger boys pile up in a game where one person tries to ride on the back of another, to our right. They wear rolled-up pants, open-necked shirts, and some wear straw-colored hats. Tall aspens, with smooth greenish-white trunks and soft, golden leaves, are among the trees that line this placid river. A gnarled trunk twists against the cloudless blue sky above the revelers to our right. Other couples board a long, narrow boat at the riverbank in the distance.

Boys are shown romping at the edge of a forest park in a game of horse and rider, their disheveled exuberance in contrast to the rather prim couple nearby. These boys benefit from a new attitude toward childhood, influenced by Rousseau, who argued that children should be left to follow their natural instincts. In A Game of Hot Cockles, also in the National Gallery of Art, young men and women amuse themselves in a garden. The youth who is "it" kneels and extends a hand behind him for other players to slap while he guesses their identities. The game is a form of flirtation. The players touch and tease each other, and the youth who is "it" hides his face in the lap of a young lady. And while the rough boys are framed by nature—beeches and a craggy tree—this courting scene is framed by art. Eighteenth-century viewers would have recognized the garden sculpture on the right as Falconet's Cupid the Admonisher.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French, 1732 - 1806, A Game of Horse and Rider, c. 1775/1780, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1946.7.5

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From a distance, we look down onto and across a lush park filled with elegantly dressed, light-skinned adults and children gathered in small groups as one woman swings from tall trees in this vertical painting. The color palette is dominated by celery and avocado green and soft straw yellow. An aquamarine-blue sky with towering white and ash-gray clouds fills the upper three-quarters of this painting. On our left, soaring trees reach two-thirds of the way up the composition. Two walls mark an entrance to the garden in the lower left. Stone fountains carved into the shape of lions sit on top of the walls with streams of water pouring from their mouths to urns below. People gather next to the entrance and further down a slope to our right. They relax together in pairs except for one group, which has two women and two children. The women’s long dresses have ruffled sleeves that come to their elbows, and the men wear long jackets and knee-length britches over stockings. A woman wearing a butter-yellow and rose-pink ball gown sits on a swing with ropes tied back into the trees to our left. She swings out diagonally high above the other people. Below the woman, some of the people watch and point to her as she swings. To our right, a woman in a crimson-red and yellow gown sits on a boxy, stone structure and looks through a telescope while a man leaning onto the box, wearing a brown coat, looks on. A woman in a strawberry-red dress and a man in a teal-blue jacket play with a small white dog at the edge of the pool in front of the entrance while another woman and man sit and stand between the entrance walls. In the distance to our right, trees and shrubs grow in front of pewter-gray hills under the lavender-purple horizon.

With children's games glimpsed from above in an immense expanse of earth and sky, Fragonard presents a vision of nature, imposing yet tamed by civilization. These are not forests, but gardens resembling the magical Villa d'Este, where Fragonard sketched in Italy. Light creates volume in the towering clouds and breaks through in patches on the ground to illuminate the small figures as if they were on a distant stage.

The Swing and Blindman's Buff, designed together, trace the progress of love. In one, a blindfolded young woman reaches out to tag and identify another player in a game that since the Middle Ages had symbolized the folly of love. In the 1700s this meaning was viewed with indulgence: youths were meant to grasp at love. In the companion painting another young woman sits on a swing pulled by a youth who is barely visible in the shadows between the lion fountains. The swinging motion, which brings her skirts and legs into view, suggested erotic abandon. The two are lovers, who have "found" each other, as the players in Blindman's Buff are attempting to do.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French, 1732 - 1806, The Swing, c. 1775/1780, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1961.9.17

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A woman sitting in an upholstered chair near a vanity table touches the hair of the little girl leaning against her lap to our left, as a man leans onto the back of her chair to our right in this vertical portrait painting. The people all have pale skin, flushed cheeks, and their pale gray hair is pulled back and curled. Their pink lips curve in slight smiles, and light glinting off of much of the fabric suggests they wear satin or silk. The woman’s body is angled to our left, toward the girl, but she turns her head back to look up over her other shoulder with gray eyes. A voluminous, cream-white cloth drapes over her shoulders and lap, over a bodice covered in lilac-purple bows and ribbons. Her gold satin skirt falls around her feet. The little girl leans onto one arm on the woman’s lap as she turns to look at us with pale blue eyes. The girl’s forget-me-not-blue dress has a fitted bodice, elbow-length sleeves over white cuffs, a long, full skirt, and white ruffles along the collar. The woman holds blue flowers in the girl’s hair, and the girl’s forearm wraps around a bundle of pink and red flowers in the woman’s lap. The chair is upholstered in teal blue and has a gold frame and a row of gold nail heads along the padded back and arm. The man leans one forearm against the back of the chair as he looks down at the girl. In that hand, he holds a folded piece of paper with writing. He wears a loose jacket decorated with gold pagodas, pink and yellow flowers, and spruce-green leaves against a brown background. Foamy white lace falls back from his cuffs and hangs down from the high white collar of his undershirt. He wears brick-red, knee-length britches, white stockings, and black shoes with silver buckles. His other hand is planted against his hip, and one ankle is crossed in front of the other. A vanity draped with a white cloth sits on the far side of the woman and girl, along the left edge of the painting. It holds gold and glass vessels and boxes, and a rounded mirror at the back is draped with dark pink cloth. The lower half of a window behind the vanity is covered by a white cloth, and the panes continue beyond the top of the canvas. A teal-blue curtain hangs along the right edge of the window, at the corner of the room. A clock with a gold case of swirling, carved designs hangs high on the peanut-brown wall behind the man. On the floor near the chair, blue and white striped tissue paper, a rose-pink ribbon, and a strand of pearls drape over the edges of an open box. Writing along the front edge of the lid of the box reads, “Fs. Drouais. Ce 1 avril. 1756.” A pink rose lies near the girl’s feet, to our left.

On the floor a box opened to reveal lace, pearls, and gaily striped silk, is painted on its lid with the legend "this first of April 1756." Probably the gifts, the girl's flowers, and the paper held by the man—a poem perhaps— are all poissons d'avril ("fish of april"), tokens named after the zodiac Pisces that were exchanged by family and intimate friends on April 1 to mark the beginning of spring.

Drouais studied with Boucher, and this painting is probably among his earliest commissions. The older artist had painted a number of similar domestic scenes of figures lit by a window opposite them. Drouais, however, increased the drama with a bright sky and billowing curtain. He painted with stronger contrasts of color than did Boucher and with meticulous realism seen, for example, in the lace at the man's cuff and throat.

The setting places these family members among the wealthy bourgeoisie, though their identities remain unknown. After exhibiting at the Salon of 1758, Drouais quickly became a favorite of Louis XV's last mistress, Madame du Barry, and attained great fame, especially with portraits of children and older women.

François-Hubert Drouais, French, 1727 - 1775, Family Portrait, 1756, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1946.7.4

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Shown from the lap up, a young woman with pale skin, wearing a goldenrod-yellow dress, sits reading a small book, facing our left in profile in this vertical painting. The deep, scooped neckline of her rich yellow gown is edged with lace and decorated with a mauve-purple bow at the bust. Her chest is covered by sheer white fabric under a ruffled, pleated collar. The ruff is tied at the back with another mauve bow, and a ribbon of the same color ties up her chestnut-brown hair. She has a delicate nose and rosebud mouth, and she tips her head down to read the book she holds in one hand. She sits against an oversize pillow streaked with pale lilac and deep rose pink. Her left arm, closer to us, is draped over a railing that extends across the width of the canvas. The background behind her is streaked with tan and muted teal blue. A vertical strip of light caramel brown along the right edge of the canvas suggests another wall against which the pillow rests. The artist’s loose, lively brushstrokes are visible throughout.

Fragonard painted several young girls in moments of quiet solitude. These works are not portraits but evocations, similar to the "fantasy portraits" Fragonard made of acquaintances as personifications of poetry and music. He painted these very quickly—in an hour, according to friends—using bold, energetic strokes. A Young Girl Reading is painted over such a fantasy portrait and shares its brilliant technique. The girl's dress and cushion are painted with quick and fluid strokes, in broad unblended bands of startling color: saffron, lilac, and magenta. Her fingers are defined by mere swerves of the brush. Using the wooden tip of a brush, Fragonard scratched her ruffed collar into the surface of the paint. This is the "swordplay of the brush" that Fragonard's contemporaries described, not always with universal approval. His spontaneous brushwork, rather than the subject, becomes the focus of the painting. Fragonard explored the point at which a simple trace of paint becomes a recognizable form, dissolving academic distinctions between a sketch and finished painting.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French, 1732 - 1806, Young Girl Reading, c. 1770, oil on canvas, Gift of Mrs. Mellon Bruce in memory of her father, Andrew W. Mellon, 1961.16.1

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Two women, a man, and three small children gather around a baby sleeping in a wicker cradle near an open window in this horizontal painting. The people all have pale skin with rosy cheeks. The cradle is just to left of center of the composition. It has a half canopy to shade the baby, and it sits on rockers. The baby sleeps with chubby arms over the covers tucked around the body. A woman sits on a low chest next to and on our side of the crib, near the lower left corner of the canvas. She has a prominent nose and jutting chin. She wears an oatmeal-brown bonnet and apron, and a muted red dress. She holds a staff with fabric or a spindle at the top tucked in one elbow, and the other hand rests on the canopy. A white cat lies like a loaf next to her feet. On the far side of the crib, a clean-shaven man kneels on a low platform covered by a pillow at the foot of the cradle and leans into the arms of a standing young woman. The man has a pointed nose and rounded chin, and he looks with heavy-lidded eyes at the baby. His long gray hair is tied at the nape of his neck, and he wears an ice-blue and tan long-tailed coat, breeches, and stockings. He rests one cheek against the arm of the woman who stands at his far shoulder. Her body faces the man, and she rests her other hand on his shoulder as she turns to look at the baby. A round, broad-brimmed hat casts a shadow over her delicate nose and round cheeks, and she wears a white dress with elbow-length sleeves and a full skirt. Three children stand behind the man’s feet and along the right edge of the canvas. The child closest to us has carrot-orange hair tied in a bun with a blue ribbon. She wears a white, puffy-sleeved shirt, and a parchment-white apron bunched over a pale pink skirt. She faces our left in profile, looking at the man, and holds one end of a ball of yarn that has rolled away from her. The boy behind her stands with his body facing us as he looks up and to our left. He wears a yellow jacket and a broad-brimmed hat pushed back on his head. Only the forehead and eyes of an even smaller child standing behind this pair are visible. Voluminous curtains part to either side of a window at the head of the cradle, near the upper left corner of the composition. An unlit lantern sits on the sill, and the sky beyond is dusk-blue. Bright light shines into the room, especially onto the man and woman and three children. A piece of furniture, perhaps a wardrobe, is on the far wall behind the woman, and the door to the room is open behind the children.

This tender scene may illustrate an episode from a sentimental novel, Le Roman de Miss Sarah Th..., in which a young English girl put aside wealth and position for life in the countryside with a poor but virtuous man. The narrator relates, "together they bent over the cradle and looked, first at the child and then at each other, holding hands and smiling." The theme's popularity reflects Rousseau's emphasis on natural human emotions and family life as well as a general longing to escape the artificiality of society. Fragonard is also responding to critics and middle-class audiences who called for art to contribute to domestic virtue. Not only is this nursery far from the lighthearted games in the artist's other works, but also the more subdued style emphasizes the story rather than his painting technique. The rigidly formal composition, restrained color scheme, and more controlled brushwork all point to the increasingly sober character of painting in France during the years before the revolution.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French, 1732 - 1806, The Visit to the Nursery, c. 1775, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1946.7.7

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A rustic, arched, stone bridge spanning a shallow river nearly fills this horizontal landscape. From low to the ground, we look up into and through a large arch, which occupies the lower half of the picture and frames a view that opens to a wide expanse of calm, pale blue water, wooded green riverbanks, and a misty, distant view of a village and a mountain. The horizon line comes a quarter of the way up the painting, and a smoke-colored cloud formation curves like a backward C against the ice-blue sky above. The bridge structure is made from stacked, sandstone-colored stone blocks to form heavy piers. Vegetation grows on the crumbing bridge and gaps indicate other stones are missing. The bridge’s deck runs across the center of the painting, rising slightly from left to right. Atop it, occupying the top left quadrant of the painting, sits a square stone two-story tower that encloses an arched passage over the bridge’s roadway. Groups of people, small in scale, are positioned on and around the bridge. At the river level, on a platform around a bridge footing, four women do laundry. Two pull sheets from the water and two bend on their knees to wash the linens in the river. They wear long skirts of slate blue, cranberry red, and ochre yellow with pinafores and white blouses rolled up to the elbows, with their hair pinned up. A bearded man in brown trousers, white shirt, and brown hat appears to talk to them. Another woman standing nearby in a dark, slate-gray dress balances a large, dark brown ceramic ewer on her head and reaches to pick up another resting at her feet. Warm yellow light illuminates this scene and the underside of the bridge, and reflects on the river. On the bridge deck above, a brown steer is herded across the bridge by a person wearing a wide brown hat, while three people in red, slate-blue, and white clothing are about to pass through the tower passage on the left. Immediately above them, a woman in a white blouse and head scarf appears at a small balcony with what looks like a red dress draped over it and gestures with an extended arm toward a white cat crouched on a railing below. Another woman to our right, in a brown dress, white blouse, and brown hair, stands at the top of a flight of steps leading up the far side of the tower with her back toward us, and she gazes out at the view. On the water below, a small boat with several people is rowed across the river in the middle distance. In a shadowed area at the foot of the bridge, closer to us, a man stands wearing a pointed hat, blue jacket with buttons, and high boots with a sword tucked under his arm. Behind him, a woman in a dark green dress and kerchief sits on a stone step. Both look toward the scene under the bridge with the washerwomen.

Hubert Robert was nicknamed "Robert of the ruins." His view of the sixth-century Ponte Salario in the countryside around Rome includes real as well as imaginary elements. He and Fragonard studied together in Rome, sketching often in the Italian countryside. Robert drew ruins; his friend, the tree-lined alleys of Renaissance gardens. On his return to France, Robert himself redesigned Louis XVI's gardens at Versailles and served on the commission that established the Louvre as a museum.

In the eighteenth century, Rome retained little of its former glory; garbage in some quarters reached to the windowsills. Yet the city continued to attract artists and wealthy young gentlemen who completed their education on the Grand Tour. In the 1770s landscape artists gained a new means of support—which had been difficult, given the low esteem accorded them by the Academy—by producing works that could be engraved for the lavishly illustrated travel books that were gaining popularity.

Hubert Robert, French, 1733 - 1808, The Ponte Salario, c. 1775, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1952.5.50

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