A Young Girl Reading

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Young Girl Reading
Fragonard, The Reader.jpg
Artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Year c. 1770
Medium Oil-on-canvas
Dimensions 81.1 cm × 64.8 cm (31 1516 in × 25 12 in)
Location National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States
X-ray of painting showing original pose

Young Girl Reading, or The Reader (French: La Liseuse), is an 18th-century oil painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. It was purchased by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC in 1961 using funds donated by Ailsa Mellon Bruce, the daughter of Andrew W. Mellon, following her father's death.[1]


The painting features an unidentified girl wearing a lemon yellow dress with white ruff collar and cuffs and purple ribbons. The subject is depicted in profile, reading from a small book held in her right hand, sitting with her left arm on a wooden rail and her back supported by a large lilac cushion resting against a wall. Her hair is tied in a chignon with a purple ribbon, and her face and dress are lit from the front, casting a shadow in the wall behind her. Fragonard pays close attention to the face, but uses looser brushwork on the dress and cushion, and the ruff was scratched into the paint with the end of a brush. The horizontal line of the armrest and a vertical line between two unadorned walls provide a sense of space and structure.

The work is more a genre painting of an everyday scene than a portrait, and the name of the sitter is not known. X-ray photography has revealed that the canvas originally featured a different head looking towards the viewer, which Fragonard painted over.[2][3][4] It is one in a series of quickly executed paintings by Fragonard featuring young girls, known as figures de fantaisie.[5]

The painting was not a completed academic work, and probably passed through the hands of several collectors and dealers in France. It was owned by surgeon Théodore Tuffier, and came to the US before 1930, when it was in the collection of Alfred W. Erickson in New York, founder of the advertising agency McCann Erickson. It was inherited by his wife Anna Edith McCann Erickson in 1936, and following her death in 1961 it was bought by the National Gallery of Art.


  1. ^ Bergman-Carton, Janis (1995). The Woman of Ideas in French Art, 1830-1848. Yale University Press. pp. xi. ISBN 0-300-05380-0. 
  2. ^ Bailey, Colin B. (2003). The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard: Masterpieces of French Genre Painting. Yale University Press. pp. 286–287. ISBN 0-300-09946-0. 
  3. ^ Taft, W. Stanley (2000). The Science of Paintings. Springer Press. pp. 79–80. ISBN 0-387-98722-3. 
  4. ^ "Submod 3: Obj 3: A Young Girl Reading". asu.edu. 
  5. ^ Southgate, M. Therese (2001). The Art of Jama II: Covers and Essays from the Journal of the American Medical Association. AMA Bookstore. p. 70. ISBN 1-57947-159-5. 

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