The Stolen Kiss (Fragonard)

The Stolen Kiss is a painting by French painter Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806) from the end of the 1780s, depicting a secretive romance. The painting is hosted in the collection of the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg. The style of the painting was characteristic of the French Rococo period and was favoured by the wealthy art patrons of his time.[1]

The Stolen Kiss
ArtistJean-Honoré Fragonard
Yearlate 1780s[1]
MediumOil on canvas[1]
Dimensions45 cm × 55 cm (18 in × 22 in)[1]
LocationHermitage Museum[1][2], Saint Petersburg, Russia


The work was purchased in the 1790s by Stanisław August Poniatowski, the last king of Poland. The painting is mentioned for the first time in the catalogue of the Royal Picture Gallery at the Lazienki Palace in Warsaw in 1795. Perhaps it was bought at one of the auctions, which sold goods of the French aristocracy after 1792. This would explain the silence of the sources about the acquisition of the work and its certain formal and thematic incompatibility with the other works of the collection. The painting remained in the Lazienki Palace in Warsaw until 1895, when during the Partitions of Poland (1795-1918) it was taken by the Russians to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg together with four other paintings from the royal collection of Stanisław August. After regaining independence in 1918 first, and later after the end of World War II in 1945, the Polish government made diplomatic efforts to recover the painting. In the light of international law and arrangements with the authorities of the USSR, the painting as work of art of national importance taken by Russians from Poland in the 19th century, or during World War II, was a subject to legal restitution. However, the USSR authorities refused to release the painting, retaining it in the Hermitage collection, and arbitrarily compensated it (among with several others valuable paintings) with several works of lesser value.[3] In 1922, "The Stolen Kiss" was specifically compensated with the smaller "La femme polonaise" by Antoine Watteau, from the Hermitage collection (originally purchased in 1772 from Louis Antoine Crozat collection by Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia, now in possesion of National Museum in Warsaw)[4][5].


The painting depicts a kiss between two lovers, showing a young lady in cream-coloured silk gown who appears to have left her company for a secret meeting with a young man. The composition is diagonal, made up by an axis composed through her leaning figure, the shawl and the balcony door opening from the outside, ending with the table the shawl is draped over. The painting offers an array of compositional contrasts between colours and shadows: the spatial intersections are complex.[1][6][7][8]

Jean-Honoré Fragonard's works display the kind of eroticism and voluptuousness and the liking for romantic folly that was popular before the French Revolution among French aristocrats. Fragonard includes scenes of voyeurism in his paintings. This scene is depicting the stolen kiss in lavish surroundings, containing luxurious details of textures, silks and lace, like the rug with flower pattern, silk draperies, her shawl on the chair, the elegantly clad ladies that are visible through the open door. The dominant French culture influenced how Fragonard chose his themes, that were mostly erotic or love scenes, painted for Louis XV's pleasure-loving court's enjoyment.[1][6][7][8]


  1. "Jean Honore Fragonard, Stolen-Kiss". Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  2. Fragonard, Jean Honoré. 1732-1806 Stolen Kiss, Hermitage Museum
  3. "Skradziony pocałunek Fragonarda | Łazienki Królewskie". (in Polish). Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  4. Sienkiewicz, Jan Wiktor (2016-07-29). "Gino Severini o polskim malarstwie. Siedemdziesięciolecie wystawy polskich malarzy-żołnierzy w Rzymie w 1944 roku". Sztuka i Kultura. 2: 353. doi:10.12775/szik.2014.008. ISSN 2300-5335.
  5. "Polka (La femme polonaise)". Cyfrowe Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie. Retrieved 2019-12-13.
  6. Jones, Jonathan (9 December 2000). "Portrait of the Week: Young Woman, Jean-Honore Fragonard (c 1769)". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  7. Rosenberg, Pierre (1988). Fragonard. Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 978-0-87099-516-3.
  8. "The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard: Masterpieces of French Genre Painting". National Gallery of Art. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
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