Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806)

Born in Grasse in the south of France in 1732, Fragonard died in Paris in 1806. He trained with Chardin and then with Boucher. After winning the Prix de Rome in 1752, he entered the royal school of the Élèves Protégés under the director, Carle van Loo. He was at the French Academy in Rome (1756-1761), one of several successful sojourns in Italy.

Fragonard was one of the most forward-looking and inventive artists of the 18th century, epitomising the freedom and curiosity of the French Enlightenment. Fairly early in his career he abandoned a conventional path, working mainly for private patrons in both Italy and Paris. One of the most iconic images of 18th century art and Fragonard’s most famous work is ‘The Swing’ painted in 1767-1768 reputedly for a private patron and now in the Wallace Collection, London.

Fragonard was equally skilled in painting, drawing and etching, painting landscapes, fanciful portraits and scenes of everyday life, as well as working as a book illustrator. His work was an elaboration of the Rococo style which from the mid-1780s took on a more neo-classical element.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), Ruggiero blinds Alcina’s Sailors with the Magic Shield, c. 1780's


Chalk, pen and ink and grey wash
15½ x 10¼ in (39.5 x 26 cm)

The drawing was originally part of a group of 160 from the same series acquired by the renowned nineteenth century collector, Hippolyte Walfredin (1795-1880) directly from Fragonard’s descendants. They illustrate Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem, Orlando Furioso, first published in Italy in 1516. The wide-ranging story is loosely based around the adventures of Orlando, a nephew of Charlemagne, during the Crusades. The story is episodic, without a real plot or narrative per se and alternates between historical events and elaborate fantasies.

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