From Canto X of Orlando Furioso, in which the faerie Melissa petitions the powerful witch, Logistilla, for the freedom of two knights, Ruggiero and Astolfo. Logistilla is the imposing, enthroned figure in the centre of the composition, while Melissa addresses her from a humble position at the bottom of the dais. Logistilla embodies the qualities of Intelligence and Wisdom, whose patroness, the Goddess Minerva, appears above her head. The two supplicating knights stand at each edge of the composition. The radiant light that flows from behind the throne creates a powerful illusion of depth. This and the preceding drawing, although not conceived as a pair, are good examples of Fragonard’s virtuoso draughtsmanship.
Fragonard is known as one of the greatest exponents of the Rococo style. He trained with Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin and François Boucher. After winning the Prix de Rome in 1752, he worked for three years with Carle van Loo. During this period, Fragonard also drew landscapes with Hubert Robert (qv. no. 27) and travelled to southern Italy and Venice. His paintings were prized all over Europe, as evident from the distinguished collections that acquired his work during his lifetime. However, his career was effectively ended by the French Revolution, being unable to conform to the emerging neo-classical taste. Jacques-Louis David, the most important master of the new regime, attempted to assist the older artist by making him curator of the future Musée du Louvre, but Fragonard died before the project came to fruition.