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Discovery of a portrait of Fragonard missing for 200 years

A masterpiece by Fragonard, representing a “Reading philosopher“was found during an inventory of succession, announced Thursday March 25 the auction house Enchères-Champagne and the firm of experts Turquin in Paris which authenticated it.

It was an auctioneer, Antoine Petit, who had come to do an inventory in an apartment, who was attracted to an oval painting suspended high on a wall in the living room and to which the family had paid no attention for generations.

He notices an old, barely legible inscription on the back of the gilt wood frame: Fragonard. The Cabinet Turquin, specializing in the expertise of old paintings, confirmed the award. This painting, missing for more than 200 years, will be auctioned on June 26 by this Epernay house with an estimate of 1.5 to 2 million euros.

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This canvas by Fragonard (1732-1806) dates from the years 1768-1770, a period during which he dared to release his style to exalt the pleasure of painting. Far from the feminine and libertine subjects that have made his fame, he chooses the theme of reading. He will realize no less than nine portraits of mature men, to which is added Reading philosopher.

Despite the accumulated dust and the yellowed varnish, the strength of his painting remains perfectly recognizable.“, underlines the expert Stéphane Pinta.”The artist has reached the peak of his art. Freed from the extreme thoroughness of the Rococo style, his brushstrokes are quick, sure and very expressive “, notes the expert.

The painting was obviously produced quickly: a virtuosity that the Goncourt brothers would qualify as “balayure furibonde“: “the painting seems here modeled, sculpted in the material, sometimes even directly with the finger“, notes Stéphane Pinta.

Freed from the influence of his first masters, Chardon and Boucher, Fragonard is interested in the figure of the mature, bearded man, in the tradition of picturesque portraits of old men appreciated by Dutch painters of the 17th century and first of all by Rembrandt. . “The theme of knowledge, the study of texts and the Bible are all Ramadan themes to which Fragonard wished to pay homage“, continues the expert.

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