- Museum number
'The Flight of Cloelia', 1761
- Production date
Height: 204 millimetres
Width: 294 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- For commentary on this group of black chalk Fragonard drawing see 1936,0509.1.
This is one of three copies after paintings in Florence by the Flemish-born artist Livio Mehus made by Fragonard (the others are 1936,0509.6 and 27). The location of the ex-Corsini painting copied in the present work is unknown; a version of it was sold in Venice in 1947 as Giordano. This drawing was among the sixteen that Fragonard etched after his return to France in 1761. A drawn version after this sheet without an inscription was sold in Paris, 16 June 1980, lot 17 (Ananoff no. 479).
Lit.: E. Senior, 'Drawings made in Italy by Fragonard', "Old Master Drawings", XI, 1936-7, p.6, pl.IVa; A. Ananoff, ' L'oeuvre dessiné de Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 - 1806): catalogue raisonné', Paris, 1963, II, no.1084, p.183, fig.290; P. Rosenberg and B. Brejon de Lavergnée, 'Panopticon italiano: un diario di viaggio ritrovato, 1759-1761, Rome, 2000, no.155, fig.XVIII; M. Chiarini (ed.), in exhib.cat., Florence, Palazzo Pitti,, 'Livio Mehus, un pittore barocco alla corte dei Medici', 2000, pp.10-11, fig.3; P. Stein, in exhib.cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and London, BM, 'French Drawings from Clouet to Seurat', 2005, no.56 (with further literature).
As a pensionnaire of the king at the Académie de France in Rome from 1756 to 1761, Fragonard was considered a rising star, admired for the 'fire' in his brushwork. His precocious skills as a draughtsman and painter of genre scenes were sought after by French collectors and amateurs in Rome. Among the patrons he met in Rome, his most sustained relationship was with Jean-Claude Richard, the Abbé de Saint-Non (1727-91), whom he accompanied on his five-month return voyage to Paris in 1761, making black chalk drawings, mostly after earlier masters, along the way.(n.1) An amateur printmaker and early practitioner of aquatint, Saint-Non made use of Fragonard's drawings in a number of printing and publishing ventures. `The Grifionis` (1755-78) was made up of Saint-Non's prints, as was the `Fragmens des peintures et des tableaux les plus intèressans des palais et églises d'Italie` (1770-73). For a more lavish publication, the `Voyage pittoresque, ou description des royaumes de Naples et de Sicile` (1781-6), professional printmakers were employed to engrave the many drawings he had commissioned.
The lion's share of the black chalk drawings made by Fragonard for Saint-Non (seventy-one sheets) were presented to the British Museum in 1936 by Mrs Spencer Whately. A few represent views, but most are after paintings by earlier masters, either whole compositions or excerpted motifs. A comment attributed to Fragonard by an early biographer recounted the debilitating sense of awe he experienced before Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo and Raphael, causing him instead to focus his study on artists he could hope to rival: Federico Barocci (c.1535-1612), Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669), Francesco Solimena (1657-1747) and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770).(n.2) The surviving drawings are consistent with this statement: Baroque masters outnumber Renaissance sources, especially when Fragonard recorded the whole composition, rather than picking out individual figures and motifs.
Saint-Non clearly planned the five-month return journey around points of interest, rather than choosing the most direct route. They began in Naples, took a lengthy detour to Venice and the Veneto, before embarking by boat from Genoa.(n.3) In Florence from 17 April to 6 May Fragonard made at least forty drawings in a number of different collections, including this one after `The Flight of Cloelia` by Livio Mehus (c.1630-91), then in the Villa Corsini.(n.4) According to legend, Cloelia was a Roman girl given as a hostage to Porsenna, King of Clusium. By the cover of night, she escaped back to Rome by crossing the Tiber, either on horseback or by swimming. She was recaptured and returned to Porsenna, who was impressed by her bravery and freed her.
A counterproof of the present drawing, subtly reworked in black chalk, probably by Saint-Non,(n.5) first appeared in the Pigache sale in 1776, illustrated in the margin by Gabriel de Saint-Aubin.(n.6) The composition (in the same direction) was also among sixteen chosen from the 1761 group that Fragonard himself etched shortly after returning to France.(n.7)
Text by P. Stein, 2005 as cited above.
1 For an exhaustive study of the journey and the drawings, see Rosenberg and Brejon de Lavergnée, op.cit., 2000, and for a useful review of the 1986 edition of this, L. Mascoli, 'Le Journal du voyage en Italie de l'abbé de Saint-Non (1759-1761)', `Dix-huitième Siècle`, no.21 (1989), pp.423-38.
2 `Le Noir`, 1816, quoted in Rosenberg and Brejon de Lavergnée, op.cit., 2000, p.54.
3 Ibid., p.424, for their itinerary.
4 The canvas is untraced today, although what was probably a variant was exhibited in Venice in 1947 as by Luca Giordano (1643-1705). In that version the setting is a moonlit landscape with two additional female onlookers in the background to the left. See by A. Riccoboni, exhib.cat., `Quattrocento pitture médite`, Venice, 1947, p.15, no.99, pl.96.
5 This very plausible suggestion, that it is Saint-Non's hand we see in the reworked counterproofs from this trip, was made by Rosenberg and Brejon de Lavergnée, op.cit., 2000, p.326.
6 Pigache sale, Paris, 21 October 1776. The copy with illustrations by Saint-Aubin is in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris. Page 74, with the counterproof after `The Flight of Cloelia`, is illustrated in Rosenberg and Brejon de Lavergnée, op.cit., 2000, p.334. The counterproof was also illustrated in the catalogue of the sale of the collection of Madame X***, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 6 April 1957, lot 2.
7 Of the sixteen prints, two bear the date '1764'. See G. Wildenstein, `Fragonard aquafortiste`, Paris, 1956, pp. 19, 25 and 28, nos, X, XVI and XIX.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1980 Mar-May, Tokyo, Museum of Western Art, 'Fragonard', no. 107
1980 May-Jun, Kyoto Museum, 'Fragonard', no. 107
2005/6 Nov-Jan, New York, Met Mus of Art, Clouet to Seurat/BM, no. 56
2006 June-Oct, BM, Clouet to Seurat/BM, no. 56
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Inherited by Mrs Whatley from the Meyrick family.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number