August 21, 2009
Fragonard Friday: The New Model
Welcome to Fragonard Friday, today we are going to look at The New Model. The New Model was painted around 1770 and can be seen at the Musée Jaxquemart-André in Paris. At first glance the concept of the painting is very clear, a young first time model is at her first sitting with an artist.
There is limited detail in the background of the painting but we can tell that they are at the artist’s studio. His easel, maulstick and taboret complete with rags in preparation of the painting. The actual process of painting has yet to begin, we are seeing the moments just before. The artist has an idea, possibly she is to be a Venus, and we can see the scene being set.
The exhilaration of the new experience comes with a touch of nerves and she follows the directions of the artist on how to position herself. She holds herself up and her chaperon tries to arrange the fabric of her gown as desired by the artist. She does this by exposing the shoulders and bust, pushing her bodice down just so. She clearly has a good idea of how to set the girl up to look just right, rather rightly desirable? He too takes part of the set-up by adjusting or testing the placement of her skirts, lifting them up a bit.
The artist stands apart from the women, and slightly faces us. To adjust the skirts he does not fully move toward the sitter, merely uses his maulstick. (The maulstick is a light weight wooden tool artist would use by resting their hand/forearm on the top which had a soft padded area. This support would allow them to paint for long periods of time without resting their hand on the canvas.) Notice he is very handsome and young. His manner of dress suggest that he is good at what he does, and has decent clientele. In a peach silk or satin (yay or nay?) he casually leans against the tabornet. Possibly out going and full of charisma, he certainly appears confident in his pose and gesture.
The chaperon stands in contrast with the girl, dressed in full with dark colors and wearing a dark bonnet which is tied under her chin. Her dark locks are also stand out compared to the sitter’s powdered tresses. The new model is dressed in a billowing white garment, and only has a golden sash and rosy cheeks as a splash of color. Professor Mary Sheriff notes that there is not a moral tone to the artwork, unlike other similar 18th century pieces of the same variety. There is no modesty between the parties. The chaperon and artist work together to reveal the model’s assets. In response the model complies, accepting her new job and endures the evaluation.