This composition captures a secret relationship, perhaps an affair, or simply a young couple who must be coy about their relationship because of the pressures of society at the time. There is a charm and innocence to the couple, who seem besotted with each other as they lean back in a quiet room together. The lady's outfit dominates much of the painting, with her dress rippling in the light, whilst her scarf or headdress is dangled even further across to the right. The room itself is very smart, suggesting prominent backgrounds for them both. A handmade carpet lies beneath their feet and all of the internal decoration and furniture oozes class and expense. In comparison to some of his other paintings, Fragonard is slightly less aggressive with his lighting within The Stolen Kiss.
It was fairly soon after its completion that the painting was purchased by Stanisław August Poniatowski who adored by the piece and made great efforts to keep it within his possession during some political turbulence. Eventually it found its way into the Hermitage's collection, along with several other of his paintings, though the circumstances around this relocation are vague and carry a large amount of suspicion. The Hermitage was bequeathed a number of significant items through genuine means but it is hard to add the same label to this particular piece. A political argument occurred as a result of this between the Russian and Polish governments, which perhaps underlines the methods that were involved in its original acquisition.
The original artwork, completed on a relatively small canvas by this artist's normal standards, is now found at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. This impressive venue benefits from several high profile bequeaths from a number of Russian collectors over previous centuries. Even the architecture of the building itself is well worth a visit, even before you consider the supreme art collection that can be found displayed inside. Aside from a number of Fragonard paintings, you can also find in this establishment a number of works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Caspar David Friedrich, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and Gauguin. In truth, even if we limit it to the narrow sphere of European art, ignoring everything else, the Hermitage has too much within its collection to really summarise with the names of just a few artists.