Fragonard’s brushwork is as much the subject of this painting as the young woman. A flurry of rapid marks captures her blushing face. Bold, fluid strokes of unblended color define her dress, ribbons, and cushion. Fragonard created the lace of her ruff (the frill around her neck) and the bodice of her dress by dragging his brush handle through the paint while it was still wet. _Young Girl Reading_ is part of the “fantasy portrait” series, in which Fragonard’s friends and patrons are dressed in elaborate costumes. He supposedly painted each portrait in an hour. Like the others in the series, the girl in this painting originally faced the viewer, but Fragonard later repainted her absorbed in reading.


  • Title: Young Girl Reading
  • Creator: Jean Honoré Fragonard
  • Date Created: c. 1769
  • Physical Dimensions: overall: 81.1 x 64.8 cm (31 15/16 x 25 1/2 in.) framed: 104.9 x 89.5 x 2.2 cm (41 5/16 x 35 1/4 x 7/8 in.)
  • Provenance: Verrier;[1] (his sale, Paillet at Hôtel d'Aligre, Paris, 11 March 1776 and days following, no. 80); purchased by Mailly or Neiully [_sic_]. (sale, Paillet at Hôtel d'Aligre, Paris, 7 February 1777, no. 15). Jean François Leroy de Sennéville [1715-1784], Paris; (his sale, Chariot and Paillet at Hôtel de Bullion, Paris, 5-11 April 1780, no. 59); purchased by Duquesnoy, Paris; (his sale, at his residence by Regnault, Paris, 1-3 March 1803, no. 19). (sale, Alliance des Arts, Paris, 26 April 1844, no. 14). Casimir Perrin, marquis de Cypierre [1783-1844], Paris; (his estate sale, at his residence by Thoré, Paris, 10 March 1845 and days following, no. 55). Comte Pierre de Kergorlay [1847-1919], by 1889.[2] (E. Gimpel and Wildenstein, Paris); sold 1899 to Ernest Cronier [1840-1905], Paris; (his estate sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 4-5 December 1905, 1st day, no. 8); purchased by Ducrey. Dr. Théodore Tuffier [1859-1929], Paris, by 1910 [or possibly purchased 1905 at Cronier sale through Ducrey], until at least 1928. (Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Paris, New York, and London); Alfred W. Erickson [1876-1936], New York, by 1930;[3] by inheritance to his wife, Anna Edith McCann Erickson [d. 1961], New York; (her sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 15 November 1961, no. 16); purchased by NGA with funds provided by Ailsa Mellon Bruce [1901-1969], New York. [1] The first name in the provenance was published in the 2009 NGA Systematic Catalogue (entry on the painting by Richard Rand, in Philip Conisbee, et al. _French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century_. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2009: no. 31, 160-166) as "Possibly comte du Barry, Paris," based on the provenance for the painting according to Georges Wildenstein, _The Paintings of Fragonard, complete edition_, New York, 1960: no. 391, and this was repeated throughout the literature. In the description of Sale Catalog F-A406, the Getty Provenance Index Database of sale catalogues corrects Wildenstein's inaccurate identification of the seller, but provides only the surname Verrier. Marie-Anne Dupuy-Vachey suggests that the seller might be Robert Charles Verrier, who died 11 May 1776 (see her article, "Fragonard's 'fantasy figures': prelude to a new understanding," _The Burlington Magazine_ 157, no. 1345 [April 2015]: 242-243). However, this is more likely to have been another individual by the same name, a Parisian expert who remained active on the art market through the latter part of the eighteenth century and who counted among the dealers of some importance. See Yuriko Jackall, _Fragonard: The Fantasy Figures_, exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2017: 52. [2] Jacques Dumont de Montroy, _Les Kergorlay dans l'Oise et en Normandie_, Beauvais, 2006: 167-170; Roger Portalis, _Honoré Fragonard: sa vie et son oeuvre_, 2 vols., Paris, 1889: 282. Comte Denis de Kergorlay kindly provided a copy of the 2006 book about his family, enabling the identification of the "Comte de Kergorlay" named as the painting's owner in 1889. Pierre de Kergorlay's second wife, Marie de Caulainecourt de Vicence (1859-1902), was through her mother a granddaughter of Casimir Perrin, marquis de Cypierre, who owned the painting in 1844, the year of his death. Although the painting appears to have sold at the marquis' 1845 estate sale, it possibly remained in the family and came to Pierre de Kergorlay through his second marriage in 1880. [3] An annotated copy of the 1905 sales catalogue in the NGA Library provides Ducrey's name, who was possibly buying for Tuffier. Correspondence between the Paris and New York offices of Duveen Brothers, Inc., in 1927 and 1928 discusses the painting and the possibility of purchasing it from Tuffier; Wildenstein is also mentioned as a possible buyer (Duveen Brothers Records, Getty Research Institute Library, Los Angeles, accession no. 960015, reel 97, box 242, folder 16; copies in NGA curatorial files). René Gimpel (_Diary of an Art Dealer_, translated by John Rosenberg, New York, 1966: 398), in a diary entry of 16 February 1930, writes of seeing the painting two days before at the Erickson residence, and describes it as "from the old Crosnier[_sic_] Collection, bought at his sale by Professor Tuffier..."
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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