Rodrigo de Bivar "El Cid" and his father, Don Diego
(Alexandre-Evariste Fragonard)


As he often did, Fragonard turned to a masterpiece of French dramatic literature for the subject of this painting — Corneille’s Le Cid. It is a tale of the eleventh-century crusade to liberate Spain from Moorish domination. King Alfonso of Castille carried out his Christian reconquest with the aid of Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar — El Cid (meaning lord or master to Moslems). The story had been passed down in the form of ballads and had also been dramatized by the Spanish playwright, Guillén de Castro. Corneille’s Cid was published in 1636.

Just prior to the scene depicted here Rodrigo’s father don Diego has been gravely insulted. Don Diego asks his son to avenge him with the words “Rodrigue, as-tu coeur?”, to which he replies “Tout autre que mon père l’éprouverait sur l’heure.” This moment is represented by the figure of don Diego with his hand over his son’s heart, and Rodrigo in a flamboyantly defiant stance. This is a crucial moment for the development of the play’s plot because the Cid is about to learn that the man he must kill to avenge his father is Don Gomez, the father of his betrothed. His choice between love and honor shapes the play.

Fragonard has been called, along with Delacroix, one of the best “metteurs en scène” (stagers) of his time. [1] Fragonard’s familiarity with the theater, as a designer of costumes for the opera, clearly influenced his approach to this picture. The lavishly-costumed figures are set on the stage-like platform of an outdoor terrace. Fragonard’s training in the studio of David would have taught him the use of strong profile forms and broad rhetorical gesture, while the brilliant color and painterly brushwork are the legacy of his father’s style. Unlike his “troubadour” predecessors, Fragonard’s is not a miniaturist technique, but one of dramatic scale and gesture that belies the small size of his canvases.

[1]Georges Vindry, Les peintres de la famille de Jean-Honoré Fragonard: Marguerite Gérard, Alexandre Fragonard, Théophile Fragonard. Exhibition catalogue, Grasse, Villa-Musée Fragonard, 1988.

18 1/4 by 15 inches (46.5 by 38 cm.) original frame Painted circa 1827
Oil on canvas

Matthiesen Gallery & Stair Sainty Matthiesen, ‘Romance and Chivalry’, 1996-7

Illegio, Casa delle Esposizioni, ‘Padri e figli’, 13th May – 7 October 2018

Where is It?
Stair Sainty Matthiesen
Historical Period
Romanticism - 1810-1870
Historical events
1996-Romance and Chivalry: History and Literature reflected in Early Nineteenth Century French Painting.
Hardback book. 300 pages, fully illustrated with 90 colour plates and 100 black and white illustrations. Introduction (40 pages) by Guy Stair Sainty, twelve essays, catalogue, appendix of salons 1801-24 and bibliography. £50 or $80 inc. p.& p.

(Click on image above)
Price band
$100,000 - $150,000