Crying over spilled milk!
Perrette, light and scantily dressed, drops a pot of milk, from which clouds of the precious liquid spill. The young girl cries with her hands crossed over the belly of the earthenware pot.
Her petticoat flies up and reveals two bare legs. Perrette, upside down, weeps for her lost virtue or dreams of wealth. Representations of the faux pas, the fall, abound in the 18th century and were valued for their underlying erotic associations.
Two friends look on, amused by the spectacle. Fantasy figures, incantatory and mocking, they seem to be laughing at Perrette while rushing to her aid.
With the spilt milk, all the profits that would come from its sale vanish, represented in the form of swirling clouds escaping from the jug.
The artist freely records the scene with a quick, colourful hand. The boldness of his style would ensure great success with admirers. His light touch makes the dazzling white impasto shine and captures the transitory nature of the moment.
La Fontaine's Fables (1621-1695) were very popular in the 18th century and were illustrated by many artists. Like his master, François Boucher, Fragonard chose to draw inspiration from one of the most famous, Perrette et le Pot au Lait (Perrette and the Milk Pail).