Aurora Triumphing over Night

about 1755-56
Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732–1806)


Overall: 95.3 x 131.4 cm (37 1/2 x 51 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

Ann and William Elfers Gallery (Gallery 245)





The poet Homer called Aurora “rosy fingered.” Here Fragonard painted the goddess of the dawn literally sprinkling rose petals from the morning sky onto the sleeping figure of Night, in a scene whose gracious sensuality embodies the 18th-century French Rococo style. The composition’s horizontal format and raking perspective (we seem to look up at the figures from below) indicate that it originally served as an over-door decoration, most likely in a Parisian townhouse. The canvas once had a different shape, voluptuously curved to fit surrounding boiseries (wood moldings)—look closely and you can see the original scalloped edge and the canvas inserts added to square the corners in the 19th century, when the painting was transformed into an independent gallery picture.


Michel Ephrussi (b. 1844 – d. 1914), Paris. By 1906, Charles Sedelmeyer (b. 1837 - d. 1925), Paris; May 16-18, 1907, Sedelmeyer sale, Galerie Sedelmeyer, Paris, lot 201, sold for 138,000 fr. By 1914 until at least 1921, Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris. François Coty (b. 1874 – d. 1934), Paris; November 30-December 1, 1936, posthumous Coty sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, lot 20, sold for 91,000 fr. Private collection. November 25, 1971, anonymous (“collections du Docteur X…, du Prince Y…, et de divers Amateurs”) sale, Palais Galliera, Paris, lot 22, sold to a private collector; until 2013, by descent within the family; January 31, 2013, anonymous (“property from a private collection”) sale, Sotheby’s, New York, lot 84, to the MFA. (Accession Date: February 27, 2013)

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds by exchange by contribution, and by exchange from a Gift of Laurence K. and Lorna J. Marshall