Jean-Honoré Fragonard

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Jean-Honoré Fragonard
The Sacrifice of Coresus
after 1765
Black chalk, brush and brown wash, on paper.
13 3/4 x 18 1/8 inches (347 x 465 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909.
I, 288

Watermark: none visible through lining.
This rare and curious subject was the basis for Fragonard's monumental canvas measuring over 10 by 13 feet (now in the Louvre, Paris), which in 1765 won him acceptance into the Academy and garnered attention at the annual Salon. The present drawing is the only known sketch related to this major early project, and it, along with a painted reduction of the scene in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, are considered repetitions of the 1765 painting and not preparatory studies for it. Marie-Anne Dupuy-Vachey has remarked on the ways in which Fragonard adapted his composition to this smaller scale and wondered “whether this repetition was created a little later than the painting, when the artist needed to re-appropriate his composition before providing a replica of it, so as to infuse it with the fresh breath of invention” (Dupuy-Vachey in Stein et al 2016).
The scene, taken from antiquity, depicts the high priest Coresus who has importuned Bacchus to intervene when his romantic interest in Callirhoé is met with indifference. Bacchus curses the inhabitants of Calydon with inebriation, and the resulting chaos can only be tamed by the sacrifice of Callirhoé. Faced with the need to kill his beloved, Coresus instead plunges a knife into his own breast as she faints at his feet.

Possibly Joseph Francois de Varanchan de Saint-Geniès (1723-1797), Paris; possibly his sale, Paris, Hotel d'Aligre, 29-31 December 1777, lot 58, sold or withdrawn at 720 livres; possibly sale, M. Morel et al, Paris, Hotel de Bullion, 3 May 1786, lot 375, for 300 livres to Lebrun; Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919), London and Florence; from whom purchased through Galerie Alexandre Imbert, Rome, in 1909 by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), New York (no mark; see Lugt 1509); his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943), New York.
Associated names: 

Saint-Geniès, Varanchan de, former owner.
Morel, M., former owner.
Maherault, former owner.
Murray, Charles Fairfax, 1849-1919, former owner.
Morgan, J. Pierpont (John Pierpont), 1837-1913, former owner.


Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, I, 288, repr.
Alexandre Ananoff, "L'Oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1732-1806", 4 vols., Paris, 1968, III, no. 1714, fig. 433.
Denison, Cara D. French Drawings, 1550-1825. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1984, no. 70.
Denison, Cara D. French Master Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1993, no. 68, repr.
Stein, Perrin, et al. Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant: Works from New York Collections, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016, no. 45.