Blind Man's Bluff (Fragonard)

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Blind Man's Bluff
(Le collin maillard)
Fragonard collin maillard.jpg
Artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Year c.1760
Type oil on canvas
Dimensions 116.8 cm × 91.4 cm (46.0 in × 36.0 in)
Location Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio

Blind Man's Bluff (French: Le collin maillard) is a painting by the French Rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, produced around 1769 in oil on canvas. It is full of deceptions – the girl is looking out from under her blindfold and the game seems to be a pretext leading to seduction; the two figures are in pastoral costume, but may be noble or bourgeois figures playing at being pastoral figures; the background seems to be a wood but could be a stage set. In short, it seems to abolish the boundary between truth and lies, reality and fiction.[1]

The Toledo Museum of Art describes the work "Playfully erotic and sensuously painted, Jean-Honoré Fragonard's scene of youthful flirtation fulfils the eighteenth-century aristocratic French taste for romantic pastoral themes. The figures are beautifully dressed in rustic but improbably clean and fashionable clothes; the woman's shoes even have elegant bows on them."[2]

The painting was intended to accompany The See-Saw (1750) [1], currently, held by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, in Madrid.[3] Both are painted in the style and spirit of Fragonard's master François Boucher. Boucher's training can be seen in the ornamental flourishes of flowers and trees. But Fragonard's own skill may be seen in the brilliant composition. Blindman's bluff can be seen as a metaphor for courtship, while the rocking of the see-saw would clearly be a metaphor for the act of lovemaking itself.[4]

Another painting of the same name was completed by Fragonard, after the artist’s second journey to Italy in 1773–74, between about 1775 and 1780. In this more expansive version well-dressed men, women and children play the familiar game in a picturesque overgrown garden. Fragonard’s favorite subject, he may have viewed the games as symbolizing the game of courtship. The painting is held by the Timken Museum of Art, in San Diego, California.[5]

According to eighteenth-century engravings of the two paintings, both may have originally been as much as a foot higher at the top. Blind Man's Bluff was purchased by the Toledo Museum of Art with funds from the Libbey Endowment, a gift of the glass manufacturer Edward Libbey who founded the museum in 1901.[2]


  1. ^ (Spanish) Eva-Gesine Baur, «El rococó y el neoclasicismo » in Los maestros de la pintura occidental, Taschen, 2005, page 360, ISBN 3-8228-4744-5
  2. ^ a b "Blind-Man’s Buff". Retrieved 11 Jane 2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ "Jean-Honoré Fragonard - The See-saw". 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "Jean-Honore Fragonard: Blindman's Bluff". Boston College. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  5. ^ "18thcenturylove". Retrieved 11 June 2013. 

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