September Treasure of the Month
A Boy as Pierrot, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1785
The fair-haired, blue-eyed boy in Fragonard’s painting is dressed as Pierrot, a popular character from the commedia dell’arte. The painting follows a template of Dutch head-studies in costume (tronies) and adapts them to the popular world of the commedia and the fête galante. The combination of these traits is typical of Fragonard’s intelligent play with painterly genres and styles.
The painting relates stylistically to the miniatures produced by Fragonard’s wife, Anne-Marie Gérard, in 1779-82 and probably dates from this period. It exemplifies the artist’s late style, in which he aimed to evoke the sense of a pastel, a fashionable eighteenth century medium, by using an oil and wash technique. He also translates into oil the luminosity and fluid techniques of Gérard’s watercolours on ivory.
Sir Richard Wallace acquired the painting in 1872 when it was formerly attributed to Boucher. Wallace clearly loved the painting, as he hung it in his private study at 105 Piccadilly and never lent it to an exhibition. The subject matter of a young boy and choice of artist demonstrate the strong influence of the 4th Marquess of Hertford on Wallace’s collecting taste.