When Pastoral Landscape with a Shepherd and Shepherdess at Rest first came to light nearly two decades ago it was recognized by Eunice Williams as very early picture by Fragonard, dating to his years in Italy from late 1756 to 1761. The attribution has since been confirmed by other scholars. The painting is the work of an artist who, though trained by Boucher and familiar with the grand manner of Vanloo, used this time in Italy to begin to formulate a more individual style.
As Pierre Rosenberg notes Fragonard's Italian paintings are characterized by a clear perspective, rapid brush work and vivid use of color, as well as a fondness for the commonplace.1 The Pastoral Landscape with a Shepherd and Shepherdess at Rest is clearly in that mold. Fragonard has set the scene in the campagna. His figures are neither heroic nor elegant, an amorous shepherd couple who gaze longingly at each other. At their feet is a dog, with a somewhat dubious expression on his face, while at the center of the composition is a large white cow who looks directly at us. Fragonard paints thinly and rapidly, in quick bold strokes, perhaps none so spontaneous as the flick of the cow's tail.
1. P. Rosenberg, Fragonard, exhibition catalogue, New York 1988, pp. 63-64.
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