July 17, 2009
The Progress of Love: The Lover Crowned
After a delightful stroll and possibly delightful encounters in the gardens at Louveciennes, guests would re-enter the Salon du Roi through a set of two large glass doors. Upon entering the room they would see on the wall opposite the garden the final two pieces of the Progress of Love by Fragonard. Again, each piece depicts a scene unique to its frame, with unique characters, settings and situations.
The setting, as in all the pieces, is a lush overgrown yet planned garden. The two main figures sit among the concealed architecture with a statute over their shoulders. Flora grows around them and a third figure is seated in the lower corner. The girl, sits looking up and over her shoulder as she holds out a wreath of flowers above the head of the boy. The boy sits at her lap and holds her hand and with his other hand holds her arm. With a smile on his face he looks up at her face adoringly. Above the two is a statue of cupid sleeping (or a generic putto.)
The figure in the lower corner is an artist, who is sketching the scene before his (and our) eyes. This implies that we have not entered on some planned or unplanned spontaneous liaison, but rather an arranged scene for the purpose of art. The artist most likely has set the couple up in this dynamic setting for the purpose of a pleasing composition. An instrument and book of music sit next to them as props, still opened to the last song 'played.' Even the color of the garments both figures wear tell us this; the warm and bright colors make them stand out from the cool earthy garden.
The scene is prearranged for the sake of good art. So technically the scene has been set to display something - display a part of the progress of love. Don't get confused with this one! Our figures, and we do not know their back story as we have not met them before, are posing to mimic a familiar 18th century motif (actually the motif goes way back but was well known in the 1700s.) In the 18th century the idea of the lover crowned had to do with the idea of marriage and consummating a marriage. So our lovers are demonstrating their love by having the artwork created. The artist is making a permanent record of the couple at a particular stage of love (or of their love.)
Even cupid has been premeditated here, for he is sleeping because he has nothing to do, they are already in love and they know it! So the little statue of cupid sleeps the day away while the lovers go on making floral garlands and doing flirty things. Ah young love!
The Progress of Love: The Pursuit
The Progress of Love: The Meeting