Jean-Honoré Fragonard

1732 (Grasse) / 1806 (Paris)

It is appropriate to reconsider Fragonard without the doctrinal veil of a bourgeois morality that is blithely tartuff and peremptorily guardian of good morals, the resurgence of which still tingles political diktats today. Starting by restoring the nuances in a vocabulary overused by the deformed dross of a language that naturally tends towards simplification. Indeed, if the libertine revealed himself in the days of the Regency as a lover of his pleasure conceived as a simple end, our secular age too often tends to forget the negation of Catholicism - this religion of renunciation of the body - that the entire existence of the sybarites and petite-mistresses of the 18th century implies. No doubt they no longer indulge in the sweet pleasures of the senses, noisily orchestrated during Holy Week or Lent, as in the time of Théophile de Viau, Bussy-Rabutin or the Count of Vermandois, but boudoirs are preferred to chapels, which is fundamentally out of place in a Christian country. Love extends to regions modelled on the carte de Tendre, when gallantry imposes a code that barely modernises the chaste attentions of the courtly Middle Ages. Eroticism itself contains a whole prosody of love which must be understood in a much less prosaic sense than we do today, with more tender sentimental refinements. The fact remains that Fragonard illuminates as the painter of the graces of this century of love.

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