August 28, 2009

The Gardens of the Villa d'Este

The Gardens of the Villa d'Este, Tivoli (The Little Park), c. 1760

Fragonard worked for a month in Tivoli drawing and sketching. Possibly one of his most notable works to come out of his time there was The Gardens of the Villa d'Este, Tivoli (The Little Park). Done in oils, the composition is a view into the garden, where several figures work, relax and tour.

The foreground is lit by a warm glow, possibly from a sun spot, where two figures lounge near the guarding stone lions. A third figure pushes a barrel along the walkway and there are others behind him. The statute behind these figures lead the viewer up to the above garden area, which can be seen through engulfing foliage. The trees bend and create a frame for us, and the figures within are flanked by two large statutes on each side. Through this lush frame appears to be a wide open area, where the sun casts a general daylight and two figures wander, admiring the landscape.

As a whole, the dominating growth of nature really swallows the figures. They become small and almost ant like next to the bushy trees and vines which reach out towards them. Even the stone fencing is swallowed by the flourishing plants. They are not static either. They move and quiver in the wind, swirl around the scene and frame those within. They cast shadow and shade, while overwhelming all that is man-made.


  1. It's gorgeous! Thank you for introducing me to Fragonard and for the explanations of the paintings.

  2. I love this painting and appreciate your description. The frame of foliage around the distant scene is almost like a cartouche whirling around a cameo. It would be wonderful to have a room with murals all around that were copied from or influenced by this piece.

  3. @Paul Miller: you are right! A room with such murals would be amazing and so relaxing...

    @Tulip & Heather Friday is a perfect day for some Frag!

  4. Lauren, you might just be a 'Frag Hag'....

  5. I adore your blog and have bookmarked it! As a descendant of Mme du Barry, I feel very proud to see someone is doing this kind of research. Well done, my Lady!
    And you can also come by my blog, I have just posted a tutorial about making your own fan :)

  6. I love Fragonard's art, especially the way he paints trees.

    (Hi, I came to you via Heather's blog)

  7. @Alia and @Lesley: Hi and welcome! I am so glad you are both enjoying the blog!

    @Alia you must share your fascinating ancestory, I am checking out your blog now!

    @Lesley, I love his trees too! Don't they just seem to flutter? I am glad you found this site through Heathers, please visit anytime! :o)

  8. Yes, I did write about it:
    And I so love that in my blog profile photo I resemble her so well :)

  9. @ Alia: After reading your fan tutorial, I was reminded of this funny skit from French and Saunders. Enjoy!

  10. @Paul Miller: Thank you for the link! It's hilarious! I love French and Saunders :)

  11. Hi, I justed wanted to say - as an 18th century history addict - that this, along with that Duchess of Devonshire blog, is such an amazing source for the most interesting of information! It always seems to difficult to find information on this time era, especially about the most miscellaneous (but essential) of things. Thank you so much! :)