fragonard the swing

Fragonard the swing
The Swing (French: L’Escarpolette), also known as The Happy Accidents of the Swing (French: Les Hasards heureux de l’escarpolette, the original title), is an 18th-century oil painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard in the Wallace Collection in London. It is considered to be one of the masterpieces of the Rococo era, and is Fragonard’s best known work. [1]
The painting depicts an elegant young woman on a swing. A smiling young man, hiding in the bushes on the left, watches her from a vantage point that allows him to see up into her billowing dress, where his arm is pointed with hat in hand. A smiling older man, who is nearly hidden in the shadows on the right, propels the swing with a pair of ropes. The older man appears to be unaware of the young man. As the young lady swings high, she throws her left leg up, allowing her dainty shoe to fly through the air. The lady is wearing a bergère hat (shepherdess hat). Two statues are present, one of a putto, who watches from above the young man on the left with its finger in front of its lips in a sign of silence, the other of pair of putti, who watch from beside the older man, on the right. There is a small dog shown barking in the lower right hand corner, in front of the older man. According to the memoirs of the dramatist Charles Collé, [2] a courtier (homme de la cour) [3] asked first Gabriel François Doyen to make this painting of him and his mistress. Not comfortable with this frivolous work, Doyen refused and passed on the commission to Fragonard. [2] The man had requested a portrait of his mistress seated on a swing being pushed by a bishop, but Fragonard painted a layman.

Fragonard the swing
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This summer 2019 saw the launch of our ground-breaking conservation and research project focused around the Collection’s eight masterpieces by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

Fragonard the swing
The Swing (French: L’Escarpolette), also known as The Happy Accidents of the Swing (French: Les Hasards heureux de l’escarpolette, the original title), is an 18th-century oil painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard in the Wallace Collection in London. It is considered to be one of the masterpieces of the rococo era, and is Fragonard’s best known work.
The painting depicts an elegant young woman on a swing. A smiling young man, hiding in the bushes on the left, watches her from a vantage point that allows him to see up into her billowing dress, where his arm is pointed with hat in hand. A smiling older man, who is nearly hidden in the shadows on the right, propels the swing with a pair of ropes. The older man appears to be unaware of the young man. As the young lady swings high, she throws her left leg up, allowing her dainty shoe to fly through the air. The lady is wearing a bergère hat (shepherdess hat). Cupid watches the affair at the side of the painting, while putting his finger to his lips. There are also two cherubs below the swing. One of them look away in disapproval while the other look at them in dread. According to the memoirs of the dramatist Charles Collé, a courtier (homme de la cour) asked first Gabriel François Doyen to make this painting of him and his mistress. Not comfortable with this frivolous work, Doyen refused and passed on the commission to Fragonard. The man had requested a portrait of his mistress seated on a swing being pushed by a bishop, but Fragonard painted a layman.

Fragonard the swing
The Progress of Love series showcases Fragonard’s sense of rhythm in narrative and ability to create and resolve dramatic tension through the settings in which his figures are placed. In Love Letter, a break in the foliage above serves both to direct the audience’s eye toward the central couple and to illuminate them. The composition is framed by elements including flowers, foliage and statuary, all of which clarify the central meaning whilst retaining the viewer’s focus. This is the panel in which the narrative reaches resolution and this is reflected in the sky and trees; the dark clouds and rustling branches of earlier panels have given way to the restful glow of a calm twilight. It is this attention to mood, rendered through subtle shifts in light and the texture of brushstrokes, that set Fragonard’s work above that of his contemporaries.
Fragonard reportedly painted each of these portraits in only an hour and the speed with which they were executed contributes to the freshness and virtuosity of the brushstrokes. It is easy for the viewer to make out individual movements of the brush, capturing the loose folds of the shirt sleeve or the zig-zag of the cuff with fluidity. The colors are bright and intensely concentrated, particularly across the figure’s shirt. In The Writer and other works in this series, the energy of the painter’s process imbues the figures with a liveliness and immediacy of personality.

Fragonard the swing
Other symbolism to look at in The Swing is the small dog in the right foreground. The dog, which is traditionally a motif of faithfulness, barks in the direction of the lady’s flirtations to give warning, but the old husband doesn’t hear. Additionally, the two putti statues look in the direction of Cupid, who has raised his finger to his lips to hush them while the amorous game goes on.
For the casual viewer, The Swing may appear to be a scene of love at first sight; but, understanding the provocative symbolism layered in the painting provides a whole new perspective on the decadent world created by painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard. The artist completed L’Escarpolette (The Swing) in 1767 for the Baron de Saint-Julien, who wanted a flirtatious portrait of his mistress. Today, it is remembered as Fragonard’s most successful and beloved work of art.

References:

http://www.wallacecollection.org/collection/les-hazards-heureux-de-lescarpolette-swing/
http://www.wikiart.org/en/jean-honore-fragonard/the-swing-1767
http://m.theartstory.org/artist/fragonard-jean-honore/artworks/
http://mymodernmet.com/fragonard-the-swing/
http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/swing-fragonard.htm

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