This lively miniature, with its dynamic graphite underdrawing, quickly dashed watercolor, and gouache, was long thought to have been painted by one of eighteenth-century France’s most celebrated artists, Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806). Today, it is considered part of a group of extraordinary miniatures painted by Fragonard’s wife Marie Anne Fragonard, née Gérard, whose more celebrated sister, Marguerite Gérard (1761–1837), trained and even collaborated with Fragonard. Marie Anne was not alone among eighteenth-century women who drew in the shadow of more famous husbands. Francois Boucher’s (1703–1770) wife, Marie Jeanne Buzeau (1716–1796) drew and etched, apparently using her husband’s compositions as models.
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Title:Portrait of a Boy
Artist:Marie Anne Gérard Fragonard (Madame Fragonard) (French, 1745–1823)
Dimensions:Oval, 2 7/8 x 2 3/8 in. (73 x 59 mm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1960
This is one of a group of freely painted miniatures from the 1770s, mostly of children, formerly attributed to Fragonard by most scholars (see Portalis 1889, Dayot and Vaillat 1908, Schidlof 1964, Mandel 1972; see also Torben Holck Colding, Aspects of Miniature Painting: Its Origins and Development, Copenhagen, 1953, pp. 146–48). In 1996 Pierre Rosenberg published an article assigning the group to Fragonard's wife, Marie Anne Gérard, an attribution Graham Reynolds (in a letter of 1997 in the Department of European Paintings files) found "completely convincing."
Marie Anne Gérard was born in Grasse, the oldest of seventeen children. She was sent to live with an uncle in Paris, and, when she showed exceptional talent, she became a student of Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806). Gérard and Fragonard married in 1769 and had two children: a daughter who died young and a son, Alexandre Évariste (1780–1850), who became an artist. Gérard was principally a miniaturist and her style developed under her husband's influence.
Gretchen Wold 2016
Michel Heine, Paris (in 1888); J. Pierpont Morgan, London (by 1907–d. 1913; cat., vol. 3, 1907, no. 538H, as by Jean Honoré Fragonard); his son, J. P. Morgan, New York (1913–35; his sale, Christie's, London, June 24, 1935, no. 519, as by Jean Honoré Fragonard, to Spink); [Spink, London, from 1935]; [Alfred Joseph, London, until 1960; sold to The Met]
Paris. Ecole des Beaux-Arts. "L'art français sous Louis XIV et sous Louis XV," 1888, no. 251 (as "Jeune homme portant un costume avec collerette," by Jean Honoré Fragonard).
Paris. Galerie Georges Petit. "Chardin et Fragonard," June–July 1907, nos. 227–35 (probably one of nine miniatures lent by J. Pierpont Morgan).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 5, 1996–January 5, 1997, no. 44 (as by Jean Honoré Fragonard).
Roger Portalis. Honoré Fragonard, sa vie et son oeuvre. Paris, 1889, vol. 1, ill. opp. p. 136; vol. 2, p. 317, calls it a portrait of a child as Pierrot, by Jean Honoré Fragonard.
G[eorge]. C. Williamson. Catalogue of the Collection of Miniatures, the Property of J. Pierpont Morgan. Vol. 3, [deluxe edition]. London, 1907, p. 168, no. 538H, pl. CLXXX, no. 2, as by Jean Honoré Fragonard.
Armand Dayot and Léandre Vaillat. L'oeuvre de J.-B.-S. Chardin et de J.-H. Fragonard. Paris, , p. XXI, no. 193, ill.
Leo R. Schidlof. The Miniature in Europe in the 16th, 17th, 18, and 19th Centuries. Graz, Austria, 1964, vol. 1, p. 266, as probably by Jean Honoré Fragonard.
Gabriele Mandel inL'opera completa di Fragonard. Milan, 1972, p. 112, no. 576, ill., states that Michel Heine, Paris, lent it to the exhibition in 1888.
Graham Reynolds with the assistance of Katharine Baetjer. European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, pp. 12–13, 90–91, no. 44, colorpl. 44 and ill. p. 90, call it "one of the group of brilliantly painted miniatures by [Jean Honoré] Fragonard".
Haydn Williams. Letter. January 4, 1996, states that it "may be favorably compared, in terms of subject matter and technique," with two miniatures attributed to Jean Honoré Fragonard sold at Sotheby's, Geneva, May 7, 1982, no. 314.
Pierre Rosenberg. "De qui sont les miniatures de Fragonard?" Revue de l'art no. 111 (1996), pp. 70–71, fig. 32, attributes it to Jean Honoré Fragonard's wife Marie Anne Gérard.
Graham Reynolds. Letter to Katharine Baetjer. May 22, 1997, finds Rosenberg's attribution (1996) of this and other miniatures to Madame Fragonard to be "completely convincing".
Yuriko Jackall et al. Fragonard: The Fantasy Figures. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2017, p. 9, fig. 9 (color).
Satish Padiyar. Fragonard: Painting Out of Time. London, 2020, p. 31, fig. 10 (color).
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