Jean-Honoré Fragonard


During his yearlong travels with the financier Bergeret de Grancourt in 1773–74, Fragonard spent two months in Naples. Inspired by the setting and by the local inhabitants, the artist produced some of the finest drawings of his Italian trip. This portrait of an unknown young woman wearing a traditional costume is astonishing in its modernity. An abbreviated inscription on the sheet most probably in Fragonard’s hand—Naples 1774 – feme de / Ste. Lucia—makes reference to the Passeggiata di Santa Lucia, a popular street in Naples.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard
French; 1732–1806
Portrait of a Neapolitan Woman, 1774
Brown wash over black chalk


The young woman who receives our gaze in Jean-Honoré Fragonard's Neapolitan Girl, done in 1774, was likely the wife of a fisherman, but dressed up in very elaborate costumes to celebrate the feast of San Gennaro, which took place in early May in Naples. Fragonard was traveling with his patron, Bergeret de Grancourt and the two of them spent almost a year in many cities in Italy and Europe. This is one of Fragonard's most arresting and modern drawings. The young woman is presented with no anecdote, no frivolity, but with a dignity, a humanity, a strength that is quite remarkable for its time.