|Young Girl Reading. National Gallery of Art|
More on Fragonard whose birthday was earlier this week. From the National Gallery of Art.
"A question long posed of this painting has been, “Does it represent one of Fragonard’s fantasy figures?” Its dimensions, palette, and energetic brushwork conform to those of the known works in the group, as does the girl’s pseudo-Spanish costume with its elaborate ruff collar. Yet the other fantasy figures assume dramatic poses and turn their faces to meet the viewer’s gaze, whereas the girl in the Gallery’s painting is shown in quiet repose, turned in profile, enraptured by her book, oblivious to viewers. Recent technical studies and the discovery of the related drawing provide some answers."
"In 1985 Gallery conservators the painting to peer beneath its current surface. They discovered that Fragonard had painted the head of Young Girl Reading over a preexisting portrait, possibly representing a man whose face is in three-quarter view, looking out to the viewer."
"Fragonard’s Sketches of Portraits includes a drawing that closely resembles Young Girl Reading, suggesting that the painting once depicted a fantasy figure. As in the painting, the girl in the sketch is seated by a window, indicated by the railing on which she rests her elbow, and leans against a large pillow while holding up a book in her right hand. In the sketch, however, her head is turned toward the viewer, showing that the drawing relates not to the current portrait, in which the girl appears in profile, but to the underlying portrait seen in the x-radiograph, now understood to represent a woman rather than a man."
About the Artist https://www.nga.gov/Collection/artist-info.1316.html