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The French Revolution invoked prejudice against the aristocracy and the Rococo works they purchased, including those by eighteenth century artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard whose compositions display erotic subject matter, fluid brushwork, and preference for the natural world. Today that stigma persists; Fragonard’s works, though included in authoritative texts, are described as superficial and banal. This study examines a collection of four of Fragonard’s paintings and, through consideration of over twenty-one expertly written texts, shows that painted flora symbolically modifies the erotic themes of his works. Flowers, trees, and shrubs recontextualize erotic imagery, suggesting that Fragonard’s paintings contain conceits about the French aristocracy. This study calls for a reconsideration of Fragonard’s work in general.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)

Art History, Painting, French History

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Mary Boyes


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

Is Part Of

VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


© The Author(s)

Foliage as a Modifier of Erotica and Indicator of Politics in Fragonard Paintings