Lot 99
  • 99

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

80,000 - 120,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jean-Honoré Fragonard
  • An Italianate park with a large fountain and figures
  • Red chalk;
    bears 18th century inscription, in pen and brown ink, on the mount: Fragonard. f.t 1783.


Marquis de Biron,
his sale, Paris, Lair-Dubreuil, 9 June 1914, lot 16, to Marius Paulme (fr. 9,000);
purchased from Paulme by Georges Dormeuil (L.1146a), with label on the backing: Catalogue Paulme/n.30,
thence by descent to the present owners


Paris, Pavillion de Marsan, Les artistes français en Italie (de Poussin a Renoir), 1934, no. 459;
Paris, Palais National des Arts, Chefs d'Oeuvre de l'Art Français, 1937, no. 534 (according to Ananoff, see Literature) or no. 177 (according to the label on the backing, with the title: 'Les Cyprès de la Villa d' Este')


A. Ananoff, L'Oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Paris 1963, vol. II, p. 136, no. 938 ('Le jet d'eau dans un parc'), reproduced vol. IV, fig. 714 (Supplement to vol. II)

Catalogue Note

An autumnal scene in a park, with an antique-style fountain with a large basin possibly held by atlas, is here animated by figures fetching leaves and branches to be burned by a group of children to the right of the composition.  To the left high trees and thick vegetation have overgrown an urn and its pedestal, while to the extreme right a bust, also on a pedestal, is almost hidden by the lush foliage.  The leafless branches to the left, towering over the composition, add to the grandeur and create an element of contrast to the otherwise romantic scene.  Fragonard must have enjoyed the variety he could achieve in the depiction of nature and in particular when drawing trees, which are often the main protagonists in his landscapes.  Ingeniously, he uses the water cascading from the fountain and the smoke from the fire to create an off-centre focus, which deepens the perspective and leads the eye of the viewer towards the right.  In the foreground to the extreme right the artist has animated the scene with the delightful figure of a woman, just about to lift the handles of a wheelbarrow, who looks, possibly anxiously, towards the group of children poking the fire. 

Fragonard uses red chalk in the most skilful and dynamic way throughout this splendid composition, and its intensity and general effect is enhanced by the masterly distribution of light.  This the artist achieves to a considerable extent through his subtle and instinctive use of the white surface of the paper: the areas that are left blank serve not only to create highlights, but also to suggest space and depth in the composition.  A tentative date after 1774 has been suggested for this drawing, although no red chalk drawings are known from as late as this.  Such a dating seems, however, to be supported by the mature style of the drawing, the absence of any black chalk mise-en-page, and especially by the vigorous and broad treatment of the trees and their branches, which can be found in particular in some black chalk sketches datable after 1774.  In terms of style, the present sheet is not at all far from Fragonard’s view, in red chalk over traces of black chalk, of the Château de Nègrepelisse, near Montauban, which he visited in October 1773.1  An antique-style fountain with a round basin supported by female figures is also to be seen on the left of Fragonard’s painting, Blindman’s Buff, in Washington, which is datable circa 1775-1780.2

1 Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, inv. no. F-I-244; P. Rosenberg, Fragonard, exhib. cat., Paris, Grand Palais, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987-88, no. 171, reproduced
2 Ibid., p. 344, no. 163, reproduced p. 347