2 More

The Performance

The Performance
oil on board
12 x 15 ¾ in. (30.5 x 40 cm.)
Art market, New York, by 1989.
with Stair Sainty, Matthiesen, New York.
[The Property of a Private Collector]; Christie's, New York, 31 May 1991, lot 36, where acquired by the present owner.
P. Rosenberg, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Fragonard, Paris, 1989, p. 105, no. 307ter, illustrated, as 'pencher en faveur d'une attribution à Fragonard'.

Brought to you by

Csongor Kis
Csongor Kis AVP, Specialist

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

This charming depiction of two pretty young girls playfully teaching a lapdog to sit at attention is a rapidly executed sketch, perhaps intended as a preliminary idea for a larger, more finished painting that has been lost or that Fragonard never ultimately undertook. Painted in thinly diluted oils on card, the artist permitted the card to absorb much of the pigment to create the deeply shadowed dark-haired girl at center, an effect that serves to relegate her largely into the background. He used thicker glazes of light-colored, less diluted pigments to highlight the head, face, upper body and costume of the principal, blonde-haired girl – whose feline physiognomy is frequently seen in Fragonard’s depictions of young women – adding deft strokes of thick white pigment to enliven her form and the fur of the dog, and sharp black strokes to define the folds of her dress and the head and silhouette of the spaniel. Combined with Fragonard’s light, bright palette of pinks and yellows set against an indeterminate ochre background, this variety of touch in the paint handling imbues the sketch with a lively, vivacious effect.

Throughout the 1770s – and notably before the artist’s departure for Rome in 1774 – Fragonard frequently took up the subject of young women playing with their pets, most often kittens and puppies. Several of these paintings are frankly erotic. A Young Girl Holding Holding Two Puppies (c. 1770; private collection; sold, Christie’s New York, 15 April 2008, lot 67) and Young Girl Embracing a White Cat (c. 1770; Museum Langmatt, Berlin) both depict long-haired brunettes embracing the affectionate pets to their bare breasts. In ‘La Gimblette’ (c. 1770-4; Alte Pinakothek, Munich), a young woman reclines on her back in an extravagantly unmade bed, holding a puppy between her bare legs, while the dog’s tail wags against her genitals. In Two Girls on a Bed Playing with Their Dogs (c. 1772-5; The Resnick Collection, Beverly Hills), the comely young women are barely clad in white chemises that entirely fail to cover their abundant nudity. Other renderings of the theme, such as the present painting, are more innocent and playful in intent, and include the elegant Young Girl Holding a Cat and a Dog Who Fight One Another (c. 1775-8; formerly Batsheva de Rothschild collection, Tel Aviv; sold, Christie’s, London, 13 December 2000, lots 64 and 65), and ‘Education Does It All’ (c. 1780; Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo), in which a girl dresses her two spaniels in costume and teaches them to sit up and perform tricks.

The present painting was rediscovered in 1988 and its early provenance has yet to be established. It was first published by Pierre Rosenberg, doyen of Fragonard studies, in his catalogue raisonné of 1989, where he proposed that it was executed immediately before Fragonard’s second trip to Italy; that is, circa 1773-4 (ibid.).

More from A Park Avenue Collection

View All
View All