Happy Lovers
c. 1751–1755
Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732-1806)
On View

The pleasure-loving character of the Rococo is joyously expressed in this delightful painting by Fragonard. A young couple enjoys the seclusion of a rustic retreat. Branches, leaves, and flowers form an embroidered arbor around the pair that contributes to the frivolity of the scene. Fragonard’s tactile brushwork creates a voluptuous surface that complements the subject. The pretty young girl plays the temptress to the boy who is the willing object of her affection. Above his head, she dangles a birdcage, its door already ajar. As a symbol both moralizing and erotic, the birdcage carried implications for the dalliance between the young couple that would have been easily recognizable to its eighteenth-century audience.


  • Artist Name: Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732-1806)
  • Title: Happy Lovers
  • Date: c. 1751–1755
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 35-1/2 x 47-3/4 in. (90.2 x 121.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation
  • Accession Number: F.1965.1.021.P
  • Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation

Object Information

Hippolyte-Pol Poitevin, Officer of the Legion of Honor, Paris.
[E. Gimpel & Wildenstein, Paris and New York in April, 1917, sold same year to];
Judge Elbert H. Gary (c. 1889–1927), New York, still in 15 June 1918.
Mrs. Lewis Nixon (née Sally Lewis Wood, 1891–1937), New York, sold 1935 to;
[Duveen Bros., New York, stock no. 29712, as The Happy Lovers/The Bird Cage/Les amants heureux, sold 1965 to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Fragonard

  • E. Gimpel & Wildenstein, 1914 to

[on loan]

  • New Orleans, New Orleans Museum of Art, 1980-11-03 to 1981-08-12

[on loan]

  • California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1968-10-04 to

[on loan]

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1964-02 to

A Revolution of the Palette: The First Synthetic Blues and their Impact on French Artists

  • Norton Simon Museum, 2015-07-17 to 2016-01-04

French Masters: Rococo to Romanticism. An Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings & Prints

  • Los Angeles, University of California, Art Galleries, 1961-03-05 to 1961-04-18

Halcyon Days

  • New York, Duveen Brothers, 1959-05-01 to 1959-05-30

George Washington's World

  • Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1954-01-16 to 1954-02-14

A Special Loan Exhibition of Fifteen Fine Paintings in Honor of the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Opening of the Museum on October 7th, 1933

  • Springfield, Museum of Fine Arts, 1948-10-07 to 1948-11-07

A Loan Exhibition of French Paintings, XVII-XX Centuries

  • Detroit Institute of Arts, 1947-03-06 to 1947-03-30

Jules Bache Collection

  • New York, Masterpieces of Art Pavilion, 1940-11-15 to 1940-12-15

Loan Exhibition: 17th-18th Century French Masters

  • London, Ontario, University of Western Ontario, McIntosh Memorial Gallery, 1953-02-14 to 1953-03-14

A Small Exhibition of European Paintings of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Centuries

  • Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1942-03-20 to 1942-04-20

Winter Exhibition: France in the Eighteenth Century

  • Royal Academy of Arts (Great Britain), 1968-01-06 to 1968-03-03

An Exhibition of Great Paintings in Aid of the Canadian Red Cross and of Small Pictures by Members of the Ontario Society of Artists

  • Toronto, Art Gallery of Toronto, 1940-11-15 to 1940-12-15

Exhibition of Paintings by the Old Masters

  • Flint Institute of Arts, 1945-09-15 to 1945-10-07

French Art in Painting and Sculpture of the Eighteenth Century

  • New York, Duveen Brothers, 1952-10-23 to 1952-11-22

[on loan]

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1969-04-21 to 1972-07-07

Lock, Stock and Barrel: Norton Simon's Purchase of Duveen Brothers Gallery

  • Norton Simon Museum, 2014-10-24 to 2015-02-16

The Expressive Body: Memory, Devotion, Desire (1400-1750)

  • Norton Simon Museum, 2021-10-15 to 2022-03-07

Reinstallation of Galleries: Art History of the 17th and 18th Century Gains Fresh Dimension

  • Norton Simon Museum, 1993-09-02 to 1995-08-13

Three Centuries of French Art: Selections from The Norton Simon, Inc. Museum of Art and The Norton Simon Foundation_1

  • California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1973-05-03 to 1976-06-15
  • Herrick, L., American Art News, p. 3
  • Dauterman, Carl Christian, The Burlington Magazine, p. 757
  • Gimpel, René, Journal d'un collectionneur, marchand de tableaux, p. 59
  • Charles Scribner's Sons, Europe 1450-1789: An Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World, p. 370
  • Anonymous, Art Digest, p. 8
  • Art Digest,
  • Bullard, E. John, Arts Quarterly, ill. pp. 14, 37
  • Sutton, Denys, Apollo, no. 9, fig. 10 pp. 40-41
  • La Farge, H., Art News, pp. 13-14
  • Anonymous, Art News, ill. p. 13
  • Seldis, Henry J., Art in America, pp. 95, 101
  • Cleef, A. van, American Art News, p. 6
  • Davies, Florence, The Detroit News, 1947, ill. p. 18
  • Anonymous, Springfield Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin, 1948, p. 3
  • Réau, Louis, Fragonard: sa vie et son oeuvre, 1956, p. 160
  • Wildenstein, Georges, The Paintings of Fragonard: Complete Edition, 1960, no. 31, fig. 24
  • Murphy, Edward, The New York Times Magazine, 1961, ill.
  • Mandel, Gabriele, and Wildenstein, Daniel, L'opera complete di Fragonard, 1972, no. 40 p. 87
  • Morse, John D., Old Master Paintings in North America, 1979, p.128
  • Brommer, Gerald F., Discovering Art History, 1981, p. 319
  • Cuzin, Jean-Pierre, Jean-Honoré Fragonard: Vie et oeuvre, 1987, ill. no. 40 and under no. 42, ill. pp. 30, 31, 267
  • Harlow, Frederica Todd, Art & Auction, 1988, ill. p. 130
  • Cuzin, Jean-Pierre, Jean-Honoré Fragonard: Life and Work. Complete Catalogue of the Oil Paintings, 1988, no. 40, fig. 31 pp. 31-32
  • Sarphie, Suzanne, Scripps College Bulletin, 1989, ill. pp. 20-22
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 91
  • Gill, Sarah, The Critic Sees: A Guide to Art Criticism, 1996, fig. 2-6 p. 27
  • Goodman, Elise, Simiolus, 1996, fig. 23 pp. 263 and 265
  • Jeffers, Carol S., Studies in Art Education, 1997, pp. 61-64, 71
  • Dupuy-Vachey, Marie-Anne, Fragonard, 2006, p. 91
  • Molotiu, Andrei, Fragonard's Allegories of Love, 2007, p. 64
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. D17 p. 442
  • Gimpel, René, Journal d'un collectionneur, marchand de tableaux, 2011, p. 48
  • Mocquais, Pierre-Yves, Lectures de Jean-Jacques Rousseau: sélections, mimétismes et controversies, 2013, ill pp. 157, 158
  • La Fontaine, Contes interdits de La Fontaine, 2019, Cover
  • Multiple, Arkadia, 2023, IL. S. 134 p. 132, p. 134 (ill.)
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Additional Artwork by Artist

Music Jean-Honoré Fragonard c. 1761–65
Study After Italian Artist: Allegory of Fortitude (from the Palazzo Capodimonte) Jean-Honoré Fragonard 1760-61
Study After Jusepe de Ribera: Pieta (from the Certosa di San Martino) Jean-Honoré Fragonard 1760-61

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