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Prints and Drawings
Artist: Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French, 1732–1806

In despair, Olympia throws herself on the bed, illustration for Canto X, verse 27, of Lodovico Ariosto’s “Orlando Furioso”

ca. 1780s

Black chalk with brown and gray wash

sheet: 38.4 × 25.4 cm (15 1/8 × 10 in.)
Everett V. Meeks, B.A. 1901, Fund
Jean-Honoré Fragonard studied with Jean-Siméon Chardin and François Boucher in France and then spent some time in Italy. He was immensely successful from his youth, but he refused honors and avoided prestigious history painting, instead making virtuoso half-length portraits in an unprecedented sketchy manner and decorative ensembles celebrating youth and love. It may be because his commissions slowed with the rise of Neoclassicism that he had time to embark on the series illustrating Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, of which this drawing is a part. The episode shown here is from one of the minor stories in the epic. Olympia, a princess of Holland, had been deserted by her lover, Bireno, during the night. Finding him gone, she ran to the shore, saw that his ship had sailed, and returned to throw herself face down on the bed, her hair flying behind her and her arms flung upward in despair.
18th century
Works on Paper - Drawings and Watercolors

Hippolyte Walferdin (believed to have acquired his important collection of Fragonard drawings, including 137 of the Ariosto series, from Fragonard's descendants); John Nicholas Brown. Acquired from David Tunick, New York


Suzanne Boorsch and John J. Marciari, Master Drawings from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2006), 30, 198, 211, 212–14, 252, no. 72, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.