Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud


Jean Honoré Fragonard and Marguerite Gérard
The Angora Cat,
c. 1783

On the eve of the French Revolution, the fashionable world was getting used to the idea that courtly ceremonial would be giving way to a more modest, bourgeois lifestyle. In art, this found its expression in a new predilection for genre scenes, simple costumes and hair worn loose. It was no longer the classicism of Rome, but undramatic art in the style of the Netherlands that was in demand. This painting reflects the new spirit. It shows a young, fashionably dressed woman in Dutch-looking surroundings. The carpet on the table, the painting in the background and the elderly servant are typical of works that we would normally assign to the seventeenth century. But the grace of the leading lady quickly puts the picture in its place: at the heart of the Rococo era.

In the centre of the painting is a curious scene: evidently a black cloth has just been taken off the silver globe. An Angora cat has discovered her reflection and may have decided it is a rival. The globe also reflects what is going on behind us, so to speak: a woman is sitting at an easel in a small room with two other people.

Let us consider a few other details. The painting on the wall is in the style of the artist Paulus Potter (1625 – 1654), who was much admired at this time. The carpet dates from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, and the dress is a variation on the ‘robe à l’Anglaise’, which with its puffed sleeves was by this date mostly worn only on the stage.

Marguerite Gérard and Jean-Honoré Fragonard worked so closely together – sharing a studio in the Louvre – that the paintings of the one are occasionally attributed to the other. For a long time Gérard, who was Fragonard’s sister-in-law and pupil, was thought to be the sole painter of this work, but it is now considered to be a joint production by both artists.

Jean Honoré Fragonard (Grasse 1732 – 1806 Paris) and Marguerite Gérard (Grasse 1761 – 1837 Paris): The Angora Cat, c. 1783 – 85, oil on canvas, 65 x 53.5 cm. Acquired in 2011 as a gift from the city of Cologne to mark the Museum’s sesquicentennial. Inv. no. WRM 3652. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Jean Honoré Fragonard
Grasse 1732 – 1806 Paris

Marguerite Gérard
Grasse 1761 – 1837 Paris

The Angora Cat
c. 1783, Oil on canvas, 65 x 53.5 cm
Acquired in 2011 as a gift from the city of Cologne to mark the Museum’s sesquicentennial
Inv. no. WRM 3652
Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln