The Progress of Love: Love Letters

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Jean-Honoré Fragonard, "The Progress of Love: Love Letters", 1771-72 
By MEGAN GANNON 

Imagine the greatest love you can. Now look at the painting. Get lost in the trees. Let the warm hues seep into your soul and take over subconsciousness. You will not find the traditional naughtiness that Fragonard adored here, but an appreciation to something we all aspire to. A true love. Imagine a loved one, a lover. Think about the first memories you made together, the first hello, the first touch, the first goodbye. Reflect on the initial nervousness that turned into absolute comfort. The friendship that altered your universe. Originally Fragonard painted Love Letters as the final piece in his series, The Progress of Love, for Louis XV’s mistress, Madame du Barry. Yet due to certain circumstances you now have the opportunity to own a Fragonard filled with love instead of lust.

So why Love Letters instead of the three other paintings in the series? Simple. The others fail to capture the emotion of love. Instead they only scratch at the surface with a quick kiss there or a secret meeting here. All short and confined to a moment in space. Now glance at the painting again. “Love Letters” takes all the moments and brings them together in harmony. With a statue of Amitie, the Goddess of Friendship, off to the side to demonstrate that the foundation of love lies in friendship. A cherub yearning at her as the young man desires the woman, creating a sense of urgency to feel love. To escape within its embrace. Fragonard’s signature trees fill the background engulfing our couple in a private moment. A moment filled to the brim with fidelity between the ecstatic dog and flowers in full bloom.


In front of you lies a work that Fragonard created for a couple with a love that outlasted a singular moment. A love that the couple can reflect on and feel the same intense admiration as if they were meeting again for the first time. To a true amateur this painting serves as a homage to the great love that we all wish we could partake in. Buy it as gift for someone you love, or a reminder of the love you once felt. 


Editor's Note: The authors were asked to write sales copy for Edme-François Gersaint, the prominent rococo art dealer who offered a printed catalog of available works.

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