Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Venus with a dog 1: By Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Young woman playing with dog (La Gimblette) (1765-1772)

We have had a few pictures featuring ladies with dogs before.  There is one in our post on Mario Tauzin and another in our post on Chéri Hérouard. Artists have quite often included dogs in erotic art, not necessarily because of any desire to depict women in intimate congress with them but more, we would suggest, to imply something of the smell of a woman; particularly their nether regions, as we will see in the future.

Here we have two definitely erotic, but also delicate, works by the French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806).  Fragonard was born in the world capital of perfume, Grasse.  Originally destined to be a notary his artistic talent was spotted, as an eighteen year old, by François Boucher and his progress was so rapid that he won the Prix de Rome even before he enrolled in the Academy.  After studying in Rome he became a favourite of the court of Louis XIV, producing a number of erotic works for private consumption.  The French Revolution deprived him of his wealthy patrons and he himself felt it sensible to leave Paris for the country where he continued to paint, contributing to his total of over 550 completed paintings. However, by the time he returned to Paris, a few years before his death, he had been totally forgotten and remained so for many decades.  Now he has been rehabilitated as one of the great masters of French painting and a precursor of the Impressionists.

Girl with Dog (1768)

Fragonard's approach to this small but distinct genre includes these two paintings which rely for their erotic effect on conveying a strong tactile sense as well as similar poses revealing the backs of the subjects' thighs.

The one above, Girl with Dog,  is on display in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.  The contact between the dog's fluffy tail and the girl's inner thighs are, no doubt, the cause of her sweet smile although it is painted in such a way to (just) allow for a more innocent explanation.

The same can be said of the top painting, Young Woman Playing with Dog.  The dog is in the shadow whereas the light in the painting is focussed on that shadowed area between her thighs.  Sometimes known as La Gimblette (a sort of pastry) Fragonard produced several versions, some now lost, where the girl is depicted as offering a pastry to the dog.  Considered very risque at the time, engravings of it were marked "not for display".

Claude Michele Clodion (1738-1814) produced a number of sculptures inspired by these pictures.

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