Lot 66
  • 66

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

6,000,000 - 8,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jean-Honoré Fragonard
  • Two girls on a bed playing with their dogs
  • oil on canvas


Possibly A. Hall, by 1778;
Possibly De Ghent sale, Paris, Basan, 15 November 1779, lot 31;
Possibly Dubois sale, Paris, Lebrun, 31 March - 5 April 1784, lot 132 (unsold);
Possibly Dubois sale, Paris, Lebrun, 20 December 1785, lot 102;
Comte de Reilhac collection, 1889;
Eugène Kraemer collection, before 1913;
His sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit (Maîtres Lair, Dubreuil, & Baudoin), 28-29 April 1913, lot 20, reproduced;
S. Grencer collection, Paris, before 1933;
His sale, Paris, Galerie Charpentier (Maître Beaudoin), 27 March 1933, lot 23;
Anonymous sale, Paris, Palais d’Orsay, 28 March 1979, lot 164;
Anonymous sale, Paris, Etude Tajan, 12 December 1995, lot 101, where acquired by a private collector;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 5 July 2006, lot 67, where acquired by the present owners.


Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Chardin et Fragonard, 1907, no. 112;
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, Consuming Passions: Fragonard's Allegories of Love, 12 February - 4 May, 2008;
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, Eye for the Sensual, 25 September 2010 - 2 January 2011, no. 14.


Possibly F. Villot, Hall, sa vie, ses oeuvres, Paris 1867, p. 74 (no dimensions given);
E. and J. de Goncourt, under 'Fragonard', in L'Art du Dix-huitième Siècle, Paris 1882, p. 330;
Baron R. Portalis, L’œuvre de Fragonard, Paris 1889, pp. 222 and 282, reproduced p. 126;
P. de Nolhac, Jean Honoré Fragonard, Paris 1906, p. 121 (with incorrect dimensions of 82 by 54 cm.);
Possibly E. and J. Goncourt, L'Art du XVIIIe siècle, Paris 1906, vol. III, p. 33;
A. Dayot & L. Vaillat, L’œuvre de Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin et de Jean Honoré Fragonard, Paris, 1907, no. 112, reproduced;
G. Wildenstein, The Paintings of Fragonard, Bath 1960, p. 264, cat. no. 291 or 292;
D. Wildenstein, L’opera completa di Fragonard, Milan 1972, cat. no. 309, reproduced;
Advertisement in Connoisseur, March 1979, p. 27, reproduced;
J.P. Cuzin, Fragonard, vie et oeuvre, Paris 1982, p. 298, cat. no. 202, reproduced;
P. Rosenberg, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Fragonard, Paris 1989, p. 99, cat. no. 260, reproduced;
S. Schaefer, Consuming Passions: Fragonard's Allegories of Love, exhibition catalogue, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008;
J-P. Marandel in Eye for the Sensual, exhibition catalogue, Stuttgart 2010, pp. 17, 20, 36 and 80-81, cat. no. 14, reproduced in color.

Catalogue Note

Painted in circa 1770, this light and intimate scene dates from Fragonard’s most fertile artistic period. The spontaneous brushwork clearly illustrates why Fragonard's virtuoso technique so impressed his contemporaries and why his style still resonates with the modern viewer as much as it did for the members of the court of Louis XV. The artist offers allows us to peer into a moment of blithe playfulness as two girls, probably in their early teens, delight in each other’s company. While the innocence of the scene is underlined by the stock symbolism of the lapdogs, a gentle eroticism pervades the scene; the picture was almost certainly destined to hang in a private boudoir, in much the same way as the artist’s celebrated and much copied Girl in her Bed, Making her Dog Dance, from circa 1768, in Munich (see fig. 1).1 While both pictures celebrate the spirited joy of girls passing time in bed playing with their loyal pets, a note of undeniable but guilt-free titillation is introduced. Indeed, the design of the Munich painting was engraved by Charles Bertony with an inscription addressed to the print dealers of the day: "le sujet ne doit pas être mis à l'étalage" ("this subject should not be displayed").2 Both the Munich painting and the present work would clearly have shocked the easily disturbed sensibilities of the time, but Pierre Rosenberg invites us to view their spirit as “polisson”, that is to say risqué, rather than overtly sexual, for the both works stop short of spilling into vulgarity.

Such was Fragonard’s mastery of technique that in certain passages the execution and handling of paint present a sketch-like quality. The background is described by merely a few brushy patches of glaze, and yet the third girl who enters the scene from the left is perfectly clear despite being merely alluded to, in much the same was as the background as a whole. In the foreground, where the scene is spotlit and a thicker creamy impasto used, the economy of brushwork is nevertheless clear and perhaps best exemplified by the few strokes used to beautifully describe the white shift of the recumbent girl and of the dog she holds. By contrast the rich bounce of the turquoise-blue bed is conveyed by a gentler and and smoother use of paint. That no underdrawing is present suggests that Fragonard defined his forms freely and unrehearsed, in much the same exuberent spirit in which the girls hold themselves.

The early provenance of the picture is unclear for it is possible that two versions were painted. A painting recorded in the Hall collection in 1778 and later in the Dubois sale of 1784 is described in the Dubois sale catalogue: 'Le Lever, ou deux femmes sur un lit' - 'One lying down, the other up and playing with some dogs on a bed covered with yellow material'.3 The dimensions given in the sale catalogue (81 by 54 cm.) are slightly different from those of the present picture and the fact that the bed is decribed as being covered with a yellow material, suggests this entry may be referring to another version of the present composition. The situation is complicated by the inclusion of a picture of identical measurements in the Dubois sale of 1785: 'Deux femmes, lune debout samuse à faire danser les olivettes à un chien, tandis que lautre est couché' ('Two women; one who is up amuses herself by making a dog dance the olive-harvesters dance, while the other is lying down').4 Some writers have assumed that the pictures appearing in the Dubois sales of 1784 and 1785 were one and the same but the fact that the descriptions differ slightly (or indeed differ at all) might suggest otherwise. A painting described in the De Ghendt sale, on 15 November 1779, lot 31, as 'Deux jeunes filles en chemise avec leur chien, sur un lit d’étoffe jaune, lune debout, lautre couchée sur le ventre' was tentatively associated by Wildenstein with the picture in the 1785 Dubois sale, but the specific description of the scene taking place on a 'lit d’étoffe jaune' may connect it more convincingly with the one described in the Dubois sale of 1784. The matter is further complicated by the fact that the Goncourts (see Literature), who describe the picture in the De Ghendt sale, give its measurements as 74 by 60 cm. (rather than 81 by 54 cm.), thus making it of almost identical size to the present work. Although it may be unlikely, it is perhaps conceivable that the yellow cover, seen to the right of the present picture and the yellow/green pillows could have been described as the 'yellow material' covering the bed. If this was so, and if the dimensions given by the Goncourts for the picture in the De Ghendt sale are correct, it may be possible to associate the present picture with the one in the De Ghendt sale. In the absence of any other known versions of the composition, it is possible to speculate further that Fragonard painted only the present version of this picture, which was in the Hall collection in 1778, the De Ghendt collection in 1779, and then in the Dubois collection until offered for sale unsuccessfully in 1784, but sold in the Dubois sale of the following year.

1. See P. Rosenberg, Fragonard, exhibition catalogue, Paris 1987, p. 232-35, cat. no. 110, reproduced in color.
2. Ibid., p. 234.
3. See the Hall inventory, 10 May 1778: 'List of my pictures with the prices I gave for them': Deux Femmes sur un lit. 200 livres; see G. Wildenstein, under Literature, p. 264, cat. no. 291.
4. Wildenstein, op. cit., p. 264, cat. no. 292.