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Crouching Lion

18th century - 19th century
Europe, France

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (Grasse, France, 1732 - 1806, Paris, France)

18th century CE - 19th century CE
Red chalk on wove paper, 6 1/2 x 4 1/2 in.
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2006.11.19

Object Type: Drawing and Watercolor

Goedde Class
Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederic and Lucy S. Herman | January 25, 2013 - May 26, 2013

Jean-Honoré Fragonard
French, 1732–1806
Crouching Lion, n.d.
Red chalk on wove paper, 6 1½2 x 4 1½2 in (16.51 x 11.43 cm) (sheet)
Inscription: (verso) in graphite at bottom, “OEFLVNO,” “7,” “I566,” “81 or 87 – Bita Ansaldle”
Watermark: Fragment of a shield with a Maltese (?) cross below; unidentified.
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2006.11.19

Embodying the freedom and curiosity of the French Enlightenment, Fragonard developed an exuberant and fluid manner as a painter, draftsman, and printmaker. He was a prolific artist producing more than 550 paintings, a drawing catalogue numbering over 2,000 images, and at least thirty-five etchings.1

With a passion for both red and black chalk, Fragonard created a vocabulary that was at once descriptive and expressive. Despite the small scale of this work, the treatment of line and form is fluent and rapid. Broad diagonal hatchings create shadows, while the lines in the lion’s mane swell and taper in an almost ornamental manner.

It is surprising to find that with Fragonard the traditional role of red chalk in the preparatory process for a work of art was in some cases reversed: an oil sketch may precede a painting, and the drawing may actually follow the painting.2 Fragonard and his patrons also regarded sketches as autonomous works, worthy of proper mounts and collectors’ marks. Fragonard, like David and Ingres after him, exhibited his drawings, affirming his desire to become known and appreciated for his draftsmanship as well as for his paintings. However, unlike David and Ingres, Fragonard marketed his drawings, which accounted for a good portion of his income as an artist.3

Best known now for billowy rococo landscapes and gallante subjects, Fragonard’s drawn oeuvre, however, is diverse, including drawings of genre scenes, portraits, animals, mythology, and allegories. He made a number of black chalk and red chalk drawings of lions and house cats that resemble the Herman drawing to varying degrees.4 A black chalk drawing in the Louvre depicting eleven heads responding to a roaring lion is particularly close to this drawing.5 Miles Chappell has also pointed out the resemblance of this drawing to chalk drawings Fragonard made after Italian and Flemish works of art, though a specific source for this vividly characterized Crouching Lion, with its almost anthropomorphic face, has not yet been identified.6

Magee Quick
Michele McElderry

1Pierre Rosenberg, From Drawing to Painting: Poussin, Watteau, Fragnard, David & Ingres. Princeton, 1996, 28.
2Eunice Williams, Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections, Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1978, 21.
3Rosenberg, From Drawing to Painting, 160.
4Alexandre Ananoff, L’Oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1732–1806, Vol. 1, nos. 289, 290 (both illustrated Vol. 3, figs. 505, 506), 293, 294 (both illustrated Vol. 1, figs. 107, 108), 295 (illustrated Vol. 3, fig. 503).
5Ananoff, L’Oeuvre dessiné, Vol. 1, no. 151 (illustrated Vol. 2, fig. 342).
6Chappell, Form, Function, 165, no. 156. Chappell cites a drawing after Carracci frescoes in the Palazzo Sampieri in Bologna, now in the Metropolitan Museum. Ananoff, L’Oeuvre dessiné, Vol. 2, no. 1052, fig. 281.

Ananoff, Alexandre. L'Oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732–1806). Vol. 1. 2 vols. Paris: F. De Nobelle, Libraire, 1961.

Kennedy, Gilian, and Anne Thackray. French Drawings XVI–XVIX Centuries. London: Courtauld Institue Galleries, 1991.

Michel, Marianne Roland. "Fragonard-Illustrator of the "Contes" of La Fontaine." The Burlington Magazine 112, no. 811 (October 1970): i–vi.

Nicq, Christine, and Pierre Nicq, . Petits et Grands Maitres du Musée Atger: Cent dessins Français des 17eme et 18eme siècles. Montpellier: Bibliotheque Interuniversitaire de Montpellier, 1996.

Rosenberg, Pierre. From Drawing to Painting: Poussin, Watteau, Fragnard, David & Ingres. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Williams, Eunice. Drawings by Fragonard in North American Collections. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1978.

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