Printed, not Painted
This lovely picture hangs in the back parlor of the Rosson House, in a fancy work frame made of pine cones and acorns. Fancy work is a type of crafting from the Victorian era that incorporated pieces from nature (like pine cones, sea shells, wool and even hair) for decoration. The frame is from that time period — the picture is not.
Our version is a print (so unfortunately not the original!) of a painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard called Young Girl Reading. It was painted in 1770 — 125 years before the Rosson House was built, and around the same time that this country was still a bunch of English colonies! The girl in the picture is unknown, though it may have been Fragonard’s young sister-in-law. The original belongs to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Fragonard attended the famous École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and, after his education decided to cater to the wealthy upper class instead of being a painter to the king. Fragonard painted with large, aggressive brushstrokes (unlike most of his contemporaries), in the Rococo style, which was popular in the early 1700s for about 75 years or more. The style was light (in color and subject), and naturalistic. The portrait of the young girl in repose, engrossed in her book, was a type of painting that was very popular at that time that gave the viewer an intimate insight into daily life. However, with the serious turn towards Neoclassicism at the end of the 18th century (at and after the French Revolution), such sentimentality went out of style. After the Revolution, which many of his patrons did not survive, Fragonard went on to be appointed to an arts council that managed and directed museums at the Louvre. He died in relative obscurity in 1806, having produced hundreds of paintings during his lifetime.
Information about Fragonard and his works was found at these sites: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/02/05/arts/photo-jean-honore-fragonard-s-self-portrait-three-quarter-view-facing-left-glory.html , http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.46303.html?#overview