Lot 279
  • 279

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

200,000 - 250,000 USD
395,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jean-Honoré Fragonard
  • A Young girl sleeping
  • oil on canavs
  • 19 1/4  by 24 5/8  in.; 49 by 62.5 cm.


Verrier sale, Paris, 18 November 1776, lot 106, to Hamon, for 1,000 livres;
Sale du Cabinet de M. B. *** (Masso and Benoît), Paris, 10 April 1786, lot 43, to Chariot, for 423 livres. 


C. Portalis, Honoré Fragonard, sa vie et son oeuvre, Paris 1889, p. 281;
P. de Nolhac, J.-H. Fragonard 1732-1806, Paris 1906, p. 120;
G. Wildenstein, The Paintings of Fragonard, London 1960, p. 261, no. 274 (as lost);
G. Mandel, L'opera completa di Fragonard, Milan 1972, p. 98, no. 292;
P. Rosenberg, Fragonard, exhibition catalogue Paris and New York, English edition, 1988, p. 77; 
J.-P. Cuzin, Jean-Honoré Fragonard: Vie et oeuvre.  Catalogue complet des peintures, Fribourg 1989, p. 346, D54 (as disparu [known only from the sketch by St. Aubin]);
P. Rosenberg, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Fragonard, Paris 1989, pp. 76-77, no. 55 (as disparu).

Catalogue Note

The rediscovery of this early work, apparently missing since the end of the 18th century, is an important addition to Fragonard's oeuvre and a fascinating piece of detective work. In the Verrier sale it was described as "A young Italian girl, partially nude, lying voluptously on a bed where she has fallen asleep"  (see Provenance, [Une jeune Italienne à demi-nue, couchée volupteusement sur un lit de repos, où elle s'endormie]).  At the time of the auction, Gabriel de Saint-Aubin made a sketch of the picture in his copy of the catalogue, which is now preserved in the Bibliothèque National, Paris (fig. 1), so the general details of the composition have long been known.  However, until now, there was no painting that matched both the written and drawn descriptions and conformed to the measurements given in the sale catalogues. Nonetheless, Rosenberg, judging from the Saint-Aubin drawing, (see Literature, exhibition catalogue 1988) dated it to the artist's first trip to Italy, that is from 1756 to 1761.  The early descriptions support this as they refer to the subject as "the young Italian girl" (see Provenance).  

Now with the picture before us, it is clear that Rosenberg's assessment was correct.  During this point in his career, Fragonard was very much under the influence of Boucher, and the round  forms and opulent flesh are clearly drawn on the works of the older master.  The handling of the paint itself recalls other early works by Fragonard, such as The Stolen Kiss, in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.  In both, Fragonard renders the flesh quite smoothly while he builds the drapery up with strong, heavy strokes.  Here, particularly, the colors are warm and in a narrow range of yellows and reds, lending the entire composition a feeling of creamy richness and light.  It is the only example of a nude painted during his early Italian trip and is a forerunner of the remarkable erotic paintings of his maturity.