Jean Honoré Fragonard’s The Sacrifice to the Minotaur sold by Artcurial for €4.6m (£4m).

Image copyright: Artcurial

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On November 22 Artcurial (26/20/14.5% buyer’s premium) offered an oil on canvas painted with a mythological scene - The Sacrifice to the Minotaur - as the highlight of its Old Master and 19th century paintings, sculpture and drawings sale.

The 2ft 4in x 3ft (72 x 91cm) work is dated to c.1765, a few years after the artist had returned in 1761 from a five-year stay in Rome, and is executed in a freely painted ‘sketch’ style.

The scene shows a central figure of a young Athenian woman clothed in white fainting backwards as she realises that she has drawn the lot as the next person to be sacrificed to the Minotaur.

The painting had a provenance to two notable collections of 18th century paintings: that of Hippolyte Walferin (1795-1880),who owned over 80 paintings by Fragonard, and then the couturier Jacques Doucet (1853-1929).

It was at the latter’s sale in 1912 that this work was acquired by the grandfather of the vendors.

At Artcurial it took €4.6m (£4m) against a guide of £4m-6m, going to a private American collector.

Fashionable lady


Jeune fille au chapeau, 1770-75 by Fragonard to be offered by Boisgirard-Antonini, estimated at €400,000-600,000.

Image copyright: Artcurial

On December 21 at Drouot the auction house Boisgirard-Antonini is offering another work by Fragonard.

Jeune Fille à Chapeau is a portrait of a fashionably attired young woman in a wide-brimmed hat but again freely executed with fluid brushstrokes in the same sketchy, loose style.

The 20 x 17in (52 x 42.5) framed oval canvas comes from the collection of Dominique Magaude (1722-1806) who was deputy to the Estates General, justice of the peace and prosecutor for the king and deputy of Puy de Dôme. It has remained with his descendants until this day.

Until the early 20th century that collection also included Fragonard’s portrait of a philospher which was sold in 2021 in Epernay by Enchères Champagne for a hammer price of €6.3m, but the two paintings became separated when they went into different branches of the family.

However, both paintings are in the same style, have period inscriptions to the frames and the Jeune Fille au Chapeau is numbered 16 and the Philosopher 17. Jeune Fille au Chapeau is dated to 1770-75 and has an estimate of €400,000-600,000.