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June 20, 2007

LOS ANGELES—For many years, The Fountain of Love (c. 1784) in London’s Wallace Collection was considered one of the greatest known masterpieces of the 18th century in general, and by the artist Fragonard in particular.  In 1999, another work of the same subject in a private collection—previously thought to be a copy of Fragonard’s original—was determined to be by the hand of the artist (an autograph) and not a reproduction.  Later that year, Scott Schaefer, curator of paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum, recognized the singular importance of this work and acquired it for the Museum.  Mark Leonard, the head of Paintings Conservation at the Getty, carefully cleaned and restored the masterpiece, and carried out technical studies which revealed conclusively that this work was indeed by Fragonard and, in fact, was the first version of the composition while the virtually identical painting in the Wallace Collection was the second.

Since the acquisition, Scott Schaefer and Mark Leonard have wanted to reunite the two paintings, and this summer that will finally come to fruition thanks to a remarkable collaboration between three of the world’s finest art institutions: the J. Paul Getty Museum, the National Gallery of Art in London, and the Wallace Collection.  Leonard will courier the Getty’s Fountain to London where it will join the Wallace Collection’s version for further comparison and study by the Scientific Department of the National Gallery.  Over the course of four to six weeks, the paintings will be examined side-by-side for the first time and Leonard will clean and restore the Wallace Collection’s Fountain, as was done with the Getty’s version when it was acquired.  Upon completion, the two works will be on view at the Wallace Collection in London until September 2007.  Following this exhibition, the Getty’s Fountain will travel to Williamstown, MA. to be featured in the exhibition Consuming Passion: Fragonard’s Allegories of Love at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

About the Conservation Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum

The Paintings Conservation department, started in 1974 with the opening of the J. Paul Getty Museum, is considered one of the world’s finest, featuring four paintings conservators, one frame conservator, and support staff responsible for the care and study of the approximately 450 paintings in the Museum’s permanent collection.  The department also regularly hosts interns and guest conservators from other institutions.

Paintings Conservation is one of four conservation departments at the Getty Museum, which has about 25 conservators and support staff in total.  In addition, the Getty Conservation Institute's Museum Research Laboratory, which played a major role in the restoration of Jean-Baptiste Oudry’s Rhinoceros and Lion, works in close collaboration with the Museum’s conservation departments, performing scientific analysis of works of art to support treatments, studies of technology and materials, and collaboration with the conservators and other institutions.

Conservation was important to J. Paul Getty, who employed one of the leading conservators of paintings of the time, John Brealey, to look after his collection in London. Brealey was later named head of the paintings conservation department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1975, where he trained a generation of conservators, including Mark Leonard, who now heads the J. Paul Getty Paintings Conservation Department, having joined the Getty in 1983.

Generous support for this project was provided by the National Gallery in London and the Friends of Heritage Preservation, a Los Angeles based group dedicated to the conservation of important works of art world-wide.

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Rebecca Taylor
Getty Communications

About the Getty:

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