Hippolyte Walferdin, who probably bought the complete set of Fragonard's Ariosto drawings directly from the artist's family,
his sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 12-16 April 1880, part of lot 228 (bought by Roederer);
Louis Roederer, Rheims,
by descent to his nephew, Léon Olry-Roederer,
by whom consigned to Thos. Agnew and Sons, London, in 1922;
sold en bloc to Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach, Philadelphia, who dispersed the set;
Private collection, U.S.A.;
Thos. Agnew and Sons, London, Old Master Paintings and Drawings, 1980, p.49, no. 3
This is one of a group of over 150 drawings which Fragonard made based on the the sixteenth century epic poem by Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, a complex story of combats between Christians and Saracens and of the romances of the protagonists. Fragonard clearly devoted much time to these drawings, but there is no indication that he was working on a commission or that they were ever intended to serve for illustrations to a printed book. They are generally dated to the 1780s and are among his most free and lively drawings, although they are in fact very closely based on the text of the poem, as can be seen by the passage which the present drawing illustrates: '...Udito questo, Orlando in su la riva,/ Senza punto indugiarsi, uscì veloce/ E, come umano e pien di cortesia,/ Dove il vecchio il menò, prese la via./ Fu nella terra il paladin condutto/ Dentro un palazzo ove, al salir le scale,/ Una donna trovò piena di lutto,/ Per quanto il viso ne facea segnale...' (Canto IX, verses 20-21). Orlando is being taken to help Olympia,the daughter of the King of Holland, whose possessions were being seized by a cruel enemy. The strong architectural setting of the scene gives it a grandeur which is animated by the lovely use of varied tones of wash.
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