PRINT March 1964


Self-Portrait by Jean Honore Fragonard (1732–1806)

Fragonard’s Self-Portrait is one of the choicest masterworks in the collections of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. It is not only a portrait of exceptional esthetic distinction, but also a document of unusual rarity since it is one of but three known self-portraits in oil by this celebrated artist of the 18th-century French School; and it is the only one of that trio in this country. The freshness of handling through out indicates a work done “con amore” and very possibly at a single sitting. Painted about 1780, the painting shows the artist when he was nearing fifty, in short, when he was at the height of his powers and enjoying unrivaled popularity.

The portrait has had an interesting history. Early in the present century it belonged to the Parisian collector, Jean Dollfus; from him it passed into the collection of Baron Maurice de Rothschild and later to the Messrs. Wildenstein. From them it was acquired by Judge Elbert Gary. When the Gary Collection was dispersed at auction in 1928, the picture was acquired by Charles Haydon of New York. Still later his brother, J. Willard Haydon, presented it to Mrs. Daniel C. Jackling of San Francisco. At her death a few years ago the portrait was inherited by her niece, Mrs. Robert F. Gill. Mr. and Mrs. Louis A. Benoist purchased it from Mrs. Gill in 1959 and generously presented it to the Museum.

Thomas C. Howe