Fragonard Panels Placed in Skylit Illumination of East Gallery

Fragonard Panels Placed in Skylit Illumination of East Gallery during Gallery Relighting and Refurbishment of Fragonard Room

June 29, 2007 to October 15, 2007

For the first time since their arrival at the Frick mansion in 1915, the principal panels of Jean-Honoré Fragonard'sProgress of Love series were seen in dramatically different, partly-skylit illumination and outside of their long-standing gallery installation. These monumental works are a major attraction at the museum, and they were temporarily placed on view in the East Gallery while the Fragonard Room underwent its first major relighting and refurbishment in seventy-five years.

 
  Canapè by Nicolas Heurtaut showing Beauvais tapestry cover after Boucher. The Frick Collection, New York; photo: Michael Bodycomb

The six panels on view in the East Gallery were accompanied by a remarkable set of seating furniture carved by one of the most important chairmakers of the eighteenth century, Nicolas Heurtaut (1720–71). Not often on view, these four chairs and two canapés still bear their original Beauvais tapestry upholstery, the designs of which are after Oudry and Boucher. The frames and tapestries have been traced back to their creation in the 1760s for a client named Francois de Bussy, a career diplomat serving the French royal court. The panels were also joined by two very important commodes — highlights from the Frick's furniture collection — that are customarily on view in the Fragonard Room. On the south wall stood a neoclassical mahogany veneered example by French Royal furniture maker Jean-Henri Riesener (1734–1806), an exact contemporary of Fragonard who was in great favor with Marie-Antoinette through the abolition of the monarchy (examples of his work for her can be found nearby in the South Hall of the Frick). The collaborative brilliance of royal ébénistes Gilles Joubert (1689–1775) and Roger Lacroix (1728–99) was in evidence on the north wall of the East Gallery in the form of a commode created in 1769 for Madame Victoire, fourth daughter of Louis XV. Considered one of the finest in existence, it is a beautiful example of transitional furniture, displaying rococo features through its curvilinear form — a serpentine front and cabriole legs — and the forward-looking neoclassicism of its magnificent marquetry and gilt-bronze mounts.

 
Fragonard panels in the East Gallery, The Frick Collection, New York; photo: Michael Bodycomb  

A recently acquired Oushak carpet covered much of the large oak floor, suggestive of the way the rooms of the mansion appeared in photographs taken in the 1920s. The large medallion carpet comes from the ancient village in western Turkey where it was most likely made in the middle of the nineteenth century. Oushak carpets in particular have a long-standing connection to European painting, as artists working throughout the Renaissance often included them in interior scenes (the Frick's portrait of Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein shows a sixteenth-century Oushak carpet used as a table covering). Installed in the East Gallery in spring 2007, the rug beautifully set off the other four paintings then on view in the room, the four full-length portraits by American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler, who had an abiding love for the decorative arts of the East.

 
  Fragonard panels in the East Gallery, The Frick Collection, New York; photo: Michael Bodycomb

Commented Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator Colin B. Bailey, "This summer, we seized upon the opportunity to place these remarkable masterpieces by Fragonard on view in a way they’ve never before been seen at the Frick. The result is stunning, in fact, even beyond our own level of anticipation, and we hope the public will also take this unprecedented opportunity to enjoy these paintings in their temporary setting between now and the end of September. Without exaggerating, they are Fragonard's masterpieces, and indeed count among the greatest paintings produced in eighteenth-century Europe. The impact on the visitor entering the East Gallery is truly inspiring." The relighting and refurbishment project was made possible through the generosity of the members of the Director's Circle and an anonymous donor.

Fragonard panels in the East Gallery, The Frick Collection, New York; photo: Michael Bodycomb

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