The new model
Jean Honoré Fragonard
Grasse, 1732 - Paris, 1806
Circa 1770, oil on canvas, 50 x 63 cm
After having been awarded the Prix du Rome in 1752, Jean Honoré Fragonard initially tried his hand at history painting and religious painting, before dedicating himself to these little cabinet paintings with evocative titles: The shirt removed, The happy lovers or The useless resistance which were a great success with his supporters.
All the charm of the 18th century is expressed in this little oval painting. At the time when the work joined the André collection, it was described as follows: “Imagine everything of the fairest, pinkest, lightest you can dream of; mould these shades with spirit, but with the inimitable spirit of the master, and you’ll have the impression felt. The brush glides, without pressing down, over the lacklustre pinks of the workshop gown of a young painter occupied with lifting, with the end of his maulstick, his model’s final veils.”
The workshop’s soft light is concentrated on the model’s bust. The whiteness of the body and the fair hair combine with the white and yellow of the fabrics. The colour harmony which develops in various shades of pink and brown, the subtlety in the play of glances and the oval frame, all perfectly mastered, make this little painting a model in a genre in which Fragonard excelled: a genre of pleasant and amorous scenes, in line with the style of Boucher, of whom he was a student.
On the face of it, Fragonard wanted to participate in the game of the licentious painting, where the young artist asks his model to disrobe so that he can paint her nude on the canvas. A third individual, another women, appears to be offering to help, and is undoing her bodice, while the painter uses his maulstick to pull down her dress. It also appears that he is waiting for the young woman to be ready for inspiration to come to him, but is this desire really of an erotic nature, or is it more about poetry?