Watermark: Cross with "IHS", cross and heart inside circle.
Among the most exuberant drawings in Fragonard's oeuvre are at least 179 illustrations inspired by Ludovico Ariosto's epic love poem "Orlando Furioso", originally published between 1516 and 1532. The poem tells of the Christian knight Orlando who loses his wits when he discovers his love, the pagan princess Angelica, has married another. His cousin Astolpho embarks on a journey to recover Orlando's wits, which he finally discovers on the moon. Major subplots include the romantic challenges of the female Christian warrior Bradamante and the Saracen knight Ruggiero, and the war in which Charlemagne's army eventually triumphs over the fictional Saracen king Agramante.
It is unknown if Fragonard embarked upon this series for his own pleasure or if he hoped to secure a commission for an illustrated edition of the poem. Had such a commission been forthcoming, he would have been obliged to produce more finished iterations of each composition, since his preliminary designs were too inchoate to serve as a template for the engraver. Most of the drawings depict scenes from the first half of the poem and were executed in the growing revolutionary climate of the 1780s, when the artist had entered his 50s.
Walferdin, Hippolyte, former owner.
Roederer, Louis, former owner.
Roederer, Léon-Olry, former owner.
Rosenbach, A. S. W. (Abraham Simon Wolf), 1876-1952, former owner.
Fleming, John, former owner.
Tully, Alice, 1902-1993, donor.
Ariosto, Lodovico, 1474-1533, Orlando furioso.