The Palette set and La Bascule (circa 1760-1765, oil on canvas, 75 x 99 cm for each canvas) , two unpublished works by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (Grasse, 1732 – Paris, 1806), classified as “National Treasure”, have entered public collections and are the subject of an exceptional deposit at the Fabre Museum in Montpellier as of July 22, 2021, reflecting the desire of the Ministry of Culture to continue the enrichment of national collections in favour of French museums in the regions. This deposit is the prelude to a free transfer of ownership to the Fabre Museum of these masterpieces, thus called to definitively join the Montpellier collections.

Reappeared in 2017 on the occasion of an application for an export certificate, these two canvases, whose artistic importance justified a decision to refuse their permission to leave the territory and therefore to classify, as such, as national treasures, keep the memory of Fragonard’s first stay in Italy and represent a vivid testimony of his taste for nature and gardens. Disappeared since their sale in 1786, they contribute to the strength of the work of this major painter of the eighteenth century.

The acquisition of these works was made possible thanks to funding from the Louvre, direct State aid through the Heritage Fund and a contribution of corporate sponsorship from Webhelp. The necessary funding has been substantially supplemented by the tax system for national treasuries in the General Tax Code, which encourages the mobilization of corporate sponsors.

The choice to exhibit these exceptional works in Montpellier immediately after their acquisition by the State illustrates the accompanying policy of the museums of France in the regions, led by the Ministry of Culture.

Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin welcomes the success of an emblematic operation both for the enrichment of public collections and for the cultural action of the State in the territories.

Presentation at the Fabre Museum in Montpellier

The theme of the artists' trip to Italy, and in particular the boarders of the Académie de France in Rome, is a real red thread of the Fabre museum’s collections. It allows, through figures such as Nicolas Poussin, Jacques-Louis David, François-Xavier Fabre, Alexandre Cabanel and many others, to observe over the centuries the fascination of painters for the peninsula. These two paintings will interact with other works by famous landscapers of the Enlightenment, each in their own way expressing a particular taste for nature: Giovanni Paolo Panini, Joseph Vernet, Hubert Robert, Pierre Henri de Valenciennes.

Fragonard, well known and appreciated by the general public, hitherto absent from the collections of the Fabre museum, brings a singular and poetic reading of the unforgettable charm of the Italian gardens.

To present to visitors all the richness and diversity of this acquisition policy carried out since the reopening of the Fabre Museum in 2007, a major exhibition will present, from 16 December 2021 to 6 March 2022, four centuries of creation, of the XVIIe in the xxie century.