Lot 73
  • 73

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

300,000 - 400,000 USD
605,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jean-Honoré Fragonard
  • 'Les Baisers Maternels' or 'Les Jalousies de l'Enfance'
  • oil on canvas
  • 10 3/4  by 8 3/4  in.; 27.3 by 22.2 cm.


M. Hippolyte Walferdin (1795-1880), Paris;
His (deceased) sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 12-16 April 1880, lot 76, to H. Stettiner;
M. Sigismond Bardac, Paris, until 1914;
With Wildenstein & Co., New York;
M. Ambatielos, by whom sold, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 21-22 May 1928, lot 23, for 375,000 FF. to M. Devilder;
His sale, Paris, Galerie Charpentier, 9 December 1952, lot 18;
With Wildenstein & Co., New York;
From whom acquired by the present owner in 1988.


New York, E. Gimpel & Wildenstein, 1914, no. 5.


R. Portalis, "La Collection Walferdin et ses Fragonard," in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 2nd series, vol. XXI, no. 4, April 1880, p. 310;
R. Portalis, Honoré Fragonard, sa vie et son oeuvre, Paris 1889, p. 280;
F. Naquet, Fragonard, Paris 1890, p. 46;
V. Josz, Fragonard: moeurs du XVIIIe siècle, Paris 1901, p. 119;
C. Mauclair, Fragonard, Paris 1904, pp. 50-51;
P. de Nolhac, J.-H. Fragonard 1732-1806, Paris 1906, p. 126;
J.H. Cresp, La Vie d'un grassois: Fragonard, l'amant de la beauté, Cavaillon 1949, p. 16;
L. Réau, Fragonard sa vie et son oeuvre, Brussels 1956, p. 164;
G. Wildenstein, The Paintings of Fragonard, New York 1960, no. 478, p. 305, reproduced fig. 196;
J. Wilhelm, Fragonard (unpublished manuscript), 1960, p. 94;
G. Mandel, L'Opera completa di Fragonard, Milan 1972, no. 503;
J.P. Cuzin, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, vie et oeuvre, Fribourg 1987, no. 198, reproduced;
H. Kenner, "Art: Paintings of Mother," in Architectural Digest, vol. VL, no. 5, May 1988, reproduced p. 225;
P. Rosenberg, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Fragonard, Paris 1989, no. 99, reproduced.

Catalogue Note

This exquisite oil captures the tenderness of a young mother torn between the attentions of her two children, each of whom is competing for her caresses.  Freely painted in rich, bold strokes of white, grey, yellow and red, Fragonard's composition is an idyll of simple, domestic happiness and is often considered to be a study for a full-length version of the same composition (Edmond de Rothschild collection, Pregny).1

Les Baisers maternels, also known as Les Jalousies de l'enfance, was painted during a period in Fragonard's career when he had turned away from hedonistic depictions of courtly dalliances and embraced rustic scenes of domestic harmony.  This shift was inspired by Fragonard's own familial bliss: the artist married Marie-Ann Gérard in 1769 and the couple had a daughter, Rosalie, who later became one of her father's favourite models.  One of a series of canvases that depict life in the countryside, Les Baisers maternels demonstrates the artist's ability to evoke emotion with only a few strokes of paint.  From the tiny hands that grasp and cling to their mother's clothes, to the look of comfort and love on the young mother's face, Fragonard has distilled this frantic encounter down to its essential element: the unconditional love between a mother and her children.  

Les Baisers maternels was sold in 1880 as part of the Walferdin collection.  At the time of his death, Monsieur Hippolyte Walferdin had amassed one of the most impressive collections of 18th-century French painting, and it was sold in its entirety over the course of four days by Hôtel Drouot in April 1880.  In addition to over seventy paintings by Fragonard, the collection included paintings and drawings by Watteau, De la Tour, Boucher, Greuze, Subleyras, David and Géricault, as well as sculpture and prints after the works of Fragonard and other masters.  Understandably, the sale inspired nationalist pride, and the introduction to the catalogue concluded with the hope that these treasures of French patrimony might not all leave the country: "Souhaitons du moins que ces produits d'un art essentiellement national ne soient pas tous perdus pour la France [Let us hope, at least, that these products of an essentially national art are not all lost from France]."  Although Les Baisers maternels was exhibited in New York in 1914, the painting remained in various distinguished French collections until 1952.   

1. G. Wildenstein, under Literature, p. 305, no. 477, reproduced plate 107.