The Moment - Feb 22, 2020

Fragonard's 'The Souvenir,' Fabritius' 'The Goldfinch' in Movies Draw New Audiences to Museums

  • September 15, 2019 17:15

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Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Souvenir, c.1776 - c.1778
© Wallace Collection, London

Fragonard's image of a lovestruck Julie D’Etange and Fabritius' portrait of a tiny chained bird from the Dutch Golden Age loom large in two 2019 films that draw inspiration from classic artworks.

A well-received film released earlier this year in the U.S. and recently in the U.K. has revived interest in an artwork by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, one of the most popular artists of the 18th century.

While British director Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, starring Tom Burke and Honor Swinton Byrne, is set in 1980s London, the film draws inspiration from Fragonard’s petite painting The Souvenir, from 1778.

In the artwork, Fragonard depicts a young woman wearing a luminous pink gown carving her lover's initials into a tree. The scene was based on Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 1761 novel Julie, in which the character has an illicit love affair with her former tutor.

Housed in London's Wallace Collection, Fragonard's well-loved The Souvenir has enjoyed renewed interest from visitors due to the film, museum officials told the Guardian. There is hope that the artwork's fresh visibility on the big screen will translate into some help with the museum's restoration campaign, FixingFrago, which aims to raise funds for the conservation of five of the gallery’s eight exquisite Fragonards.

Another artwork, Dutch master Carel Fabritius’ painting The Goldfinch (Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague) figured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning Donna Tartt novel from 2013 that has been adapted to film. 'The Goldfinch' film was released (with scant commerical success and mixed reviews) in U.S. theaters over the weekend (view trailer). 

Tartt's acclaimed book has brought large crowds to both traveling exhibitions and to The Hague to see the unusual trompe l'oeil painting of a pet bird tethered to its perch. The work resides near Vermeer's celebrated Girl With a Pearl Earring (also the inspiration for a book by Tracy Chevalier and 2003 movie starring Scarlett Johansson). 

Carel Fabritius, The Goldfinch, 1654.
Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands

The Goldfinch was painted in 1654, the year that the artist died in an accidental gunpowder explosion in Delft, notes The Guardian. In Tartt's poignant work of fiction, the narrator, as a 13-year-old boy, and his mother look at The Goldfinch painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art when a bomb blast takes the mother's life. The boy flees with the artwork in his arms.

Read more at Guardian

Tags: european art

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