Welcome back to Louveciennes, and let me introduce The Meeting. This was the second work in Fragonard's group of paintings commissioned by Madame du Barry at her pavilion, which we call The Progress of Love.
The scene is set in another lush pleasure garden, where nature overtakes architecture. The trees, with their full and knotted branches, suggest both movement and a concealment. It seems so easy to conceal a tryst within the English garden foliage....
The Meeting, at first glance, might be taken for a "storming of the citadel" scene. The young man used an unnecessary ladder to scale the short wall where an innocent lady is unattended. (An A for effort?) But the more popular theme at the time was a bit more risqué than the old medieval citadel. Here we have a planned meeting among the garden. Both parties have premeditated the arrangement and we just happen to walk in on them at this undisclosed time.
It is not, however, us who catches them! A rustling in the leaves, and maybe some low banter grabs our ladies attention. Just as her, dare I say...lover, is approaching, someone else approaches from the left! That old catholic guilt (or possibly desire to avoid scandal) kicks in and we see the girl in a sheer moment of panic. She moves to tell the boy to stop and be quiet, and looks over her shoulder to see if the approaching voices can see her.
The boy stops immediately and looks to see what is happening. He is caught at such an awkward moment of movement that he crouches half over the wall not knowing whether to fall back, over or just freeze like a statue. Of course the statues are above and we have Venus and Cupid. The direction Venus looks corresponds to the direction of the unexpected visitors!
If you remember from last time, The Pursuit was painted to be displayed on the far wall of Madame du Barry's room, next to the large glass doorway to the garden. The Meeting was painted to sit to the right of The Pursuit. So, in effect we have two large paintings of delightful scenes that are set in pleasure gardens. Between them are glass doors to the actual garden creating an illusion of a large open wall.
The idea that someone, uninvited, is intruding on the couple is heightened by the placement of the doorway to the garden. Are we the intruders as we approach the glass doors? Or! At this moment the old Comte de Foufou is walking through the glass doors from the garden! How embarrassing, now it would appear that he is the intruder! Or a final scenario... now that we have seen the risqué rendez-vous that almost happened perhaps we can expect to wander in on more of these meetings when we enter the garden. Better yet....perhaps we can count on having a rendez-vous in the garden!
The Progress of Love: The Pursuit