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Two women in flowing dresses run in a garden with a small child in a carriage

In profile at right, a young woman with dark hair and pale skin, in a flowing white dress with a pink sash, leans in, pushing the cart forward to the left down a garden path. The blonde, curly haired child sits up on a pink satin cushion in a red carved wooden cart, smiling and holding a yellow cat close by. At left, dressed in a long sheer white gown over a pink dress, a woman with brown hair and pale skin, runs laughing, looking back as she pulls the front of the cart. Two small white dogs run along on either side of the cart.

Gallery Text

The First Steps and The Beloved Child date from a period of close collaboration between Fragonard and Marguerite Gérard, his pupil and sister-in-law. The tightness of the foliage and the figures, as well as the compositional structure, suggests Fragonard’s academic training, which is further evident in his drawing for The First Steps, also in the Harvard Art Museums’ collections. However, the sumptuous rendering of the fabrics and the refined brushwork of the mothers’ faces reveal the hand of his pupil, who emerged as a master in her own right by 1790. Both paintings celebrate the joys of maternity, a theme explored in the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. During the French Revolution, motherhood was linked to the ideals of social regeneration, and in 1792 a reproductive print of The First Steps was dedicated to “good Mothers.”

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French (Grasse 1732 - 1806 Paris)
Marguerite Gérard, French (1761 - 1837)
The Beloved Child
Other Titles
Original Language Title: L'Enfant Cheri
Former Title: The Child's Frist Drive
Work Type
c. 1780-1785
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2220, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Rococo and Neoclassicism in the Eighteenth Century
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
44 x 55 cm (17 5/16 x 21 5/8 in.)
framed: 64.5 x 74.5 cm (25 3/8 x 29 5/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • label: verso, center stretcher, round, handwritten, black ink: 1128.
  • inscription: verso, right stretcher, black ink: 188 [?] [partially obscured by canvas]
  • inscription: verso, top of frame, white chalk: [illegible text] VARD
  • inscription: verso, center stretcher, graphite: No. 3
  • inscription: verso, top stretcher, partially covered by canvas, graphite: Right Hand B [illegible text]
  • inscription: verso, upper right corner of stretchers, white chalk: P


Recorded Ownership History
O…sale [through Hotel de Commissaires Priseurs, Paris, December 16-17, 1839, lot 89, with pendant, The First Steps]. Roger Charles Gaultier De Rigny, [sale, through Hotel de Commissaires Priseurs, Paris, June 2, 1857, lot 39]; to Morens. Pillot sale [through Hotel des Ventes Mobilières, Paris, December 6-8, 1859, lot 43, listed as “Figures by Mlle. Gérard, landscape by Fragonard"]. E. Falcke, sold; to Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild, England, 1868, by descent; to Hannah de Rothschild 1874, by descent; to the Lord Rosebery Collection. [Wildenstein & Co., New York], sold; to Charles E. Dunlap, St. Louis, 1952, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1961.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Charles E. Dunlap
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Catalogue d'une belle collection de tableaux de ecoles Italienne, Flamande et Française...proevant du cabinet de M. O***, auct. cat., Imprimerie de Guiraudet et Jouaust (Paris, December 16-18, 1839), p. 15-16, lot no. 89 (with pendant)
  • Catalogue de tableaux anciens et modernes des écoles italienne, espagnole, flamande et française faisant partie de la belle collection de M. de Rigny, ancien receveur général du département du Calvados, auct. cat., Maulde et Renou, Imprimeurs de la Compagnie des Commissaires-Priseurs (Paris, June 2, 1857), p. 9, lot 39
  • Catalogue d'une collection de tableaux de l'école française...après cessation de commerce de M. Pillot...[marchand de curiosités], auct. cat. (Paris, December 6-8, 1858), p. 10, lot no. 46
  • Mentmore, R. & R. Clark (Edinburgh, 1884)
  • Highlights from the Collections of the Fogg Museum and Harvard Alumni of St. Louis, exh. cat., City Art Museum of St. Louis (St. Louis, 1964), cat. 30
  • Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, 1967)
  • Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY, 1967), cat. 29
  • Francis Haskell, "Millet in London and Paris", The Burlington Magazine, The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd. (April 1976), Vol. 118, No. 877, pp. 252-254, p. 253
  • Pierre Rosenberg, Fragonard, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art / Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, 1988), repr. as fig. 3, under cat. 303, on p. 573
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 160, cat. no. 84, repr. [as "The Child's First Drive"]
  • Eunice Williams, "Gens, Honorez Fragonard!": Works from the Collections of Harvard University and Harvard Friends, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, 1993), checklist no. 23, discussed in unpaginated essay
  • Alvin L. Clark, Jr., "To Delight the Eye": French Drawings and Paintings from the Collection of Charles E. Dunlap, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, 2005), checklist no. 4, p. 11
  • Yuriko Jackall and Philippe Bordes, America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art/Lund Humphries Publishers (Washington, DC, 2017), pp. 271-272, 300, pl. 29, repr. p. v (detail)
  • Satish Padiyar, Fragonard: Painting Out of Time, Reaktion Books (London, 2020), pp. 77-80, fig. 44, repr. p. 78
  • Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, "Surprise!" [review of Padiyar, "Fragonard: Painting Out of Time"], London Review of Books (January 6, 2022), 44, no. 1, pp. 39-40, p. 40
  • Jean-Honoré Fragonard's Very First Version of "L'enfant chéri", auct. cat., Galerie Malibran (Paris, 2023), pp. 4, 7, 8, ill. 2

Exhibition History

  • Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 05/08/1967 - 06/11/1967
  • Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 10/12/1967 - 12/03/1967
  • “Gens, Honorez Fragonard!”: Works from the Collection of Harvard University and Harvard Friends, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 05/15/1993 - 07/11/1993
  • "To Delight the Eye": French Drawings and Paintings from the Collection of Charles E. Dunlap, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 12/17/2005 - 03/12/2006
  • Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 2220 18th-19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 04/19/2017; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/13/2017 - 01/01/2050
  • America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 05/21/2017 - 08/20/2017

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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