Fragonard portrait shows value of Harvard curators’ loan efforts

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - 14:02 in Psychology & Sociology

A contemplative visitor has recently arrived at Harvard. Her name is unknown but her presence is unmistakable. She is the subject of a vivid portrait by the French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Muted hues of browns, reds, and blues contribute to the wistful appeal of “Young Girl Reading,” installed in a second-floor gallery devoted to 18th-century neoclassicism and rococo at Harvard Art Museums. The sitter looks serene in her yellow velvet dress topped with a white ruffled collar. Her head bowed, she is immersed in the small book she holds in her right hand. The image is one of Fragonard’s fantasy portraits, a series from the middle of his career in the late 1700s. The 15 works are similar in size, always of a single figure, sometimes a man, sometimes a woman. Often the subject is engaged in an activity that suggests a sort of “cultured leisure,” said Cassandra Albinson, Margaret S. Winthrop...

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