Published: November 20, 2007
Visitors may now enjoy one of The Frick Collection’s signature galleries, the Fragonard Room, which has undergone its first major relighting and refurbishment in 60 years.
This initiative required the temporary closure of the room in June, during which time the principal panels of Fragonard masterpiece series, “The Progress of Love” were placed on view in the East Gallery. The panels were recently reinstalled in the gallery bearing the artist’s name, which reopened October 23.
The paintings are on display with important decorative art objects from the collection, all of which will benefit greatly from the new system of illumination. Among them is the recently purchased Lepaute clock featuring a sculpture by Clodion, as well as a rare tinted plaster study of “Diana the Huntress” by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741‱828), a gift from Frederick R. Koch.
The latter acquisition made in 2006 had not yet been placed on public view at the Frick and makes its debut now. The relighting and refurbishment project, an important capital improvement, was made possible through the generosity of the members of the Director’s Circle and an anonymous donor. “It is immensely gratifying to see Fragonard’s masterpiece, as well as some of the Frick’s finest objects of Eighteenth Century decorative art, so well illuminated,” said Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator Colin B. Bailey.
Though state of the art when it was installed in 1947, the room’s previous lighting system had a narrow color spectrum and provided an uneven distribution of light. The innovative new system now illuminates to best advantage the palate Jean-Honore Fragonard used in creating “The Progress of Love,” his masterful ensemble for Madame du Barry’s pavilion at Louveciennes.
Lighting designer Richard Renfro and his associate Eileen Pierce of Renfro Design Group, Inc were charged with illuminating the wall-sized paintings without detracting from the ambiance of the historic house. Their goal was to give the impression that the panels were lit only by natural light and the room’s chandelier.
It appears that Madame du Barry found the combination of Ledoux’s neoclassical architecture and Fragonard’s rococo works to be an uneasy marriage and had the paintings removed shortly after they were hung. As installed The Frick Collection, the Fragonard Room contains several objects from the same period, illustrating how harmoniously the two styles can be bridged. A transitional commode made in 1769 by Ghiles Joubert (1689‱775) and Roger Lacroix (1728‱799) for Louis XV’s daughter, Madame Victoire, features an undulating rococo case dressed with gilt-bronze mounts that are, for the most part, quintessentially classical.
With the reopening of this room, visitors may also see for the first time Koch’s 2006 gift of a plaster statuette of “Diana the Huntress” by Houdon. At 2 feet tall, this Diana is an exact reduction of the celebrated life-size composition Houdon designed in the 1770s for Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Gotha, a full-size terra cotta version of which was acquired by The Frick Collection in 1939. The study sits atop a commode by French royal furniture maker Jean-Henri Riesener (1734‱806).
As a part of a larger project, ultraviolet-protected windows have been installed throughout the mansion, including the Fragonard Room. Additionally, the wood paneling of the Fragonard Room has been given an Eighteenth Century-inspired faux finish by Grand Illusion Decorative Paintings, Inc. Modern materials were used to simulate the matte glue-based paint often used on boiseries from the period of Fragonard’s panels. Though somewhat coarse in texture, such surfaces were cherished for their pearl-like sheen.
The museum is at 1 East 70th Street. For more information, 212-288-0700 or www.frick.org .
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm