Ten must-see works at the Frick Collection

Good for: Romantics

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  • Photograph: Michael Bodycomb; courtesy The Frick Collection New York

    Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Progress of Love," four panels: The Pursuit, The Meeting, The Lover Crowned and Love Letters

  • Photograph: Michael Bodycomb; courtesy The Frick Collection New York

    Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Progress of Love," four panels: The Pursuit, The Meeting, The Lover Crowned and Love Letters

  • Photograph: Michael Bodycomb; courtesy The Frick Collection New York

    Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Progress of Love," four panels: The Pursuit, The Meeting, The Lover Crowned and Love Letters

  • Photograph: Michael Bodycomb; courtesy The Frick Collection New York

    Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Progress of Love," four panels: The Pursuit, The Meeting, The Lover Crowned and Love Letters

  • Photograph: Michael Bodycomb; courtesy The Frick Collection New York

    Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mother and Children

  • Photograph: Michael Bodycomb; courtesy The Frick Collection New York

    Royal Manufacture of Sèvres, Potpourri Vase in the Shape of a Ship

  • Photograph: Michael Bodycomb; courtesy The Frick Collection New York

    Johannes Vermeer, Mistress and Maid

  • Photograph: Michael Bodycomb; courtesy The Frick Collection New York

    Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis in the Desert

Photograph: Michael Bodycomb; courtesy The Frick Collection New York

Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Progress of Love," four panels: The Pursuit, The Meeting, The Lover Crowned and Love Letters

Jean-Honor Fragonard's "The Progress of Love" (1771--72), four panels: The Pursuit, The Meeting, The Lover Crowned and Love Letters
These panels, part of a series of 18th-century pastoral paintings, were commissioned by Madame du Barry, a young, extravagant mistress of Louis XV. "They're full of energy, color and romance," says associate director and chief curator Colin Bailey—but unfortunately, Du Barry disagreed. The works—now considered by art historians to be Fragonard's best, and among the greatest paintings of the 18th century—were meant to decorate a pavilion built just for her, ten minutes away from Versailles, but she rejected them. If you look closely at The Lover Crowned, you'll see Cupid's quiver has no arrows, because his work is done.
Where to find it:
Fragonard Room

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mother and Children
Henry Clay Frick—a coke-and-steel industrialist with a ton of money, a giant house and a great love of art—was primarily a collector of Old Masters; a playful Renoir was one of the few Impressionist paintings he owned. It portrays two fashionably dressed young girls and their mother in up-to-the-minute winter outfits. According to Bailey, the young ladies are taking a stroll in what appears to be a wintry park in Paris. The backdrop of paint splashes is actually "a whole world of governesses, mothers, daughters and even two black-and-white dogs, frolicking," says Bailey.
Where to find it: South Hall

Royal Manufacture of Svres, Potpourri Vase in the Shape of a Ship (circa 1759)
Dried flowers were supposed to fill this French vase to perfume a room; Bailey calls it "a marvel of engineering." Only 30 or so models were ever made. "It was a very cool object to buy in the 1760s," says Bailey. "To be able to afford one of these was the ultimate status symbol."
Where to find it: Fragonard Room

Johannes Vermeer, Mistress and Maid
The Frick has three Vermeers, and they are all exquisite, but Bailey marks Mistress and Maid in his top ten of the painter's works, calling it "one of the most enigmatic and powerful" of the Dutch artist's pictures. Here, Vermeer captures something familiar but altogether mysterious—we don't know what the letters say, or the mistress's reaction to the correspondence. But it's easy to be mesmerized by her flawlessly pale hands (contrasting with the farmer's tan on her servant's arm); the zigzag of her pearls; and just behind her, a tiny pinprick of light reflecting off the back of her chair. "It's a moment of silence, and arrested time," says Bailey. (Don't miss the other two Vermeers though: Girl Interrupted at Her Music and Officer and Laughing Girl.)
Where to find it: West Gallery

Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis in the Desert
This Bellini is the subject of "In a New Light," a small exhibition presenting recent examinations of the painting from a technical point of view (through Aug 28). The piece now appears at a better height, and in vibrant lighting that is atypical for the museum. The scene here is a grand one, portraying St. Francis receiving the stigmata as he contemplates the passion of Christ. But he isn't being visited by an angel or seraph—instead, there's a natural townscape in the background, and St. Francis has risen so quickly from his desk in order to be bathed in divine light, he's left his sandals behind. After you see it, check out the concurrent multimedia installation, featuring videos and interactive images that allows you to explore the painting in even greater detail.
Where to find it:
Oval Room

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