Arts & Culture

The Progress of Love: The Meeting

Jean-Honoré Fragonard1771 - 1773

The Frick Collection
The Frick Collection

The history of these paintings—one of the most powerful evocations of love in the history of art—is linked with the career of the Comtesse du Barry (1743-1793), the last mistress of Louis XV (1710-1774). For a pleasure pavilion she commissioned from the architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806) in 1771, the countess ordered from Fragonard four canvases depicting "the four ages of love." The series advances in the following order: from a flirtatious proposal (a young man offers a girl a rose), to a furtive meeting (the lover scales the wall of a garden), to consummation or marriage (the girl crowns her lover with roses), to the calm enjoyment of a happy union (the reading of love letters). Yet, for all their beauty and passion, Madame du Barry soon returned the canvases to the artist and ordered replacements from another. Were the resemblances between the red-coated lover and Louis XV potentially embarrassing? Did the exuberant canvases seem a little old-fashioned amid the cool neoclassicism of Ledoux's avant-garde pavilion? For whatever reason, Fragonard was left holding on to his creations for another twenty years. Then, adding seven more canvases, he installed the series in a cousin's villa in southern France. They passed through the collection of J. P. Morgan, where they were displayed in his London house. They were acquired by Frick in 1915 and installed in a room specially designed for them.

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Details

  • Title: The Progress of Love: The Meeting
  • Date Created: 1771 - 1773
  • Physical Dimensions: w2438.4 x h3175 in
  • Type: painting
  • External Link: http://collections.frick.org/view/objects/asitem/items$0040:174
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Provenance: Madame du Barry, Louveciennes. Alexandre Maubert, Grasse. Sold by Maubert's grandson, Malvilan, to Wertheimer in 1898. Agnew. Bought by J. Pierpont Morgan in 1898. Duveen. Frick, 1915. Source: Paintings in The Frick Collection: French, Italian and Spanish. Volume II. New York: The Frick Collection, 1968.
  • Painter: Jean-Honoré Fragonard
  • Original Title: Les Progrès de l'amour : Le rendez-vous

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