The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
La fontaine d'amour (The Fountain of Love)
  • Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 - 1806)
  • La fontaine d'amour (The Fountain of Love)
  • France
  • c. 1785
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 63.5 x 50.7 cm
  • Signature: 'fragonard'
  • P394
  • Study
Further Reading
  • The painting is part of a group of allegorical depictions of love, painted by Fragonard in the 1780s. Another version of the same composition, begun before P394, is at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles. A print by Nicolas François Regnault after the composition appeared in 1785 and seems to have used both versions as models. It therefore provides a terminus ante quem for the paintings. Technical evidence supports the idea that they were painted at the same time. A smaller oil sketch for the composition is in a private collection. The two main versions are strikingly different in their mood and style - the Wallace Collection painting more neo-classical, the Getty version more Rococo. It is typical for Fragonard that he chose to switch between different styles at the same time of his career.

    The scene depicts love as a natural force and uncontrollable passion, stronger than the people affected by it. This perception of love was still recent around 1785 when Fragonard painted the two versions. While the image of a fountain of love was known, e. g. from Aristotle, the image is Fragonard's pictorial invention without a direct literary source.