Jean-Honoré Fragonard

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Jean-Honoré Fragonard
The Fiancee of the King of Garbe: The Tree
ca. 1790
Point of brush and wash, with brown ink, over black chalk, on paper.
8 1/16 x 5 1/2 inches (205 x 140 mm)
Purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund.

Fragonard's design for an illustration to La Fontaine's “Les Contes” (The Tales) reveals the complexity of this protracted project. The scene replicates a composition known from a reworked counterproof, now in an album in the Petit Palais, Paris. The original design may have dated from around 1770 when the artist undertook a sustained campaign to illustrate the salacious and popular tales following his first trip to Italy. This replication, and updating, of the design may date to around 1790 when Fragonard contributed plates to an edition organized by Pierre Didot and published in 1795. Alternatively, it may have been produced for an independent commission, given the appeal of the gallant subject to collectors. While the scene did not appear in Didot's publication, it served as the basis for a print by Louis Jacques Petit for which Marie-Anne Dupuy-Vachey identified a 1797 payment to Petit from Fragonard.
The scene depicts the sultan of Alexandria's daughter Alaciel standing at the base of the tree regarding her ardent admirer, a Sudanese lord named Hispal, although she is promised in marriage to the king of Garbe.


Watermark: Fleur-de-lis. Drawing is lined.

Possibly Jean-Benjamin de La Borde (1734-1794), Paris; by descent to Baron des Jamonières (great-grandson of Jean-Benjamin de La Borde); his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 24 February 1883, lot 13; from which acquired by A. Piat; his estate sale, Hôtel des Commissaires Priseurs, Paris, 22-23 March 1897, lot 50; anonymous sale, Paris, Galerie Charpentier, 14 June 1955, no. 73, pl. XXXVIII; Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London, 1992.
Associated names: 

Jamonières, former owner.
Piat, A., former owner.


Alexandre Ananoff, "L'Oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1732-1806", 4 vols., Paris, 1961-1970, IV, no. 2708, fig. 676.
Perrin Stein et al., Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant. Works from New York Collections, exh. Cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2016, no. 85.