One of the first homes built "outside the city walls" at the end of the seventeenth century was certainly Villa Fragonard. A large and austere Provencal house, beautiful in its proportions, pleasantly surrounded by a terraced garden and vegetable plots, overlooked by the now destroyed Charité hospital built in 1698, it saw a succession of old Provencal families live within its walls: firstly that of Madame Rogon for whom it was built, then the Villeneuve Esclapons and the Durands from Sartoux, before finally being bought by a rich perfumery merchant, Alexandre Maubert, in whose family it would remain.
Alexandre Maubert, a native of Grasse, a cultured man and musician, is a perfect representative of the Enlightenment. In 1790, he welcomed his cousin Jean-Honoré Fragonard who had been prompted by political events and the sudden death of his daughter, Rosalie, to leave the capital.
In the course of his stay in Grasse, Fragonard, along with his wife, sister-in-law and son, would get on with decorating the home of Alexandre Maubert. In the great stair-case he painted a chiaroscuro architectural decoration which recalled Classical times with explicit masonic and revolutionary references and symbols. He also installed in the great salon the four canvases from Louveciennes, known as “The Progress of Love in the Heart of a Young Girl,” commissioned in 1771 and then refused by Madame Du Barry to decorate her lodge, built by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, which Louis XV had gifted her.
Then he completed this collection with ten other canvases, thus covering the whole of the walls of Alexandre Maubert’s salon. This collection remained in place until 1898, when Louis-Michel Malvillan, Alexandre Maubert’s great-grandson, sold them after having had them copied by an excellent painter from Lyon, Auguste de La Brély. The originals, now known as the Fragonards from Grasse, have been on display in the Frick Collection in New York since 1915.
Also, it was quite natural that, when the house was put up for sale in 1977, the City of Grasse bought it and decided to devote three rooms on the first floor to exhibit works by Jean-Honoré Fragonard and painters from his family.
A section is also dedicated to the memory of Jean-Honoré Fragonard, commemorated in sculpture, amongst other things, a bust by Gustave Deloye, and by moving souvenirs such as the painter's chair and his paint-box.