This panel may have been located across from The Pursuit and next to The Lover Crowned at Louveciennes. Guest at Louveciennes would see this piece at best when returning from the gardens and entering through the large glass doorway.
Two youths sit in the center of this garden, in a close embrace and wearing soft elegant clothing. The boy's hand is placed in a suggestive spot, so you can imagine the intense sexual attraction between them. Moving up to his face, you will see an passionate gaze fixed only on the young lady. He appears to only see her as she reads through letter after letter, written in his own hand (we can safely assume!). The letters are piled up on the stone pillar next to her, the red sealing wax still attached. She is perched so high on the stone element it would be feasible that he placed her there, and stuck her parasol in the vines to free his hands.
|Jean-Honoré Fragonard, European, The Progress of Love (Love Letters). 1771-73, oil on canvas. The Frick Collection.|
The sculpture of Venus appears as Friendship, many see sculpture as dominating the painting. She looms over the scene withholding an object of desire from the little cupid (the heart!). This has been read differently by a variety of historians, and a popular theory is that the girl is only offering friendship now that things have cooled. Is she withholding something from her lover? What do you think?
After a romp in the park with the duc or comtesse you just met, you will be pleased to see The Love Letters on the wall across from you. As you sip down some ratafia you might smile to see the two lovers engage in memories of their past affair. You will, no doubt, blush as you recall your own recent affairs!
The full series: