girl on a swing baroque painting
As with most Rococo paintings, the subject of Fragonard’s The Swing is not very complicated! Two lovers have conspired to get this older fellow to push the youg lady in the swing while her lover hides in the bushes. Their idea is that as she goes up in the swing, she can part her legs, and he can get a perfect view up her skirt.
They are surrounded by a lush, over grown garden. A sculptured figure to the left puts his fingers to his mouth, as though saying “hush,” while another sculpture in the background has two cupid figures cuddled together. The colors are pastel—pale pinks and greens, and although we have a sense of movement and a prominent diagonal line—the painting lacks all of the seriousness of a baroque painting.
Now regarded as one of the greatest painters in the Rococo movement, Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s prolific career was characterized by outstanding success in genre paintings of merriment and veiled hedonism. Likewise, the story of The Swing begins with the commission request by Baron Louis-Guillaume Baillet de Saint-Julien, who wanted a portrait of his mistress. The Baron was very clear in his salacious intentions, specifically asking that in the painting his mistress was pushed on a swing by a bishop, while he (the Baron) looked up his mistress’s dress.
At the time, the swing was considered to be a conventional symbol of infidelity—a request that perhaps titillated the Baron. And the young woman, who deliberately kicks off her mule and lets the admirer see her legs, is overtly initiating a flirtatious game between herself and the man below. She even sends her pink slipper flying in the direction of a winged marble statue that greatly resembles Cupid, the Roman god of love and desire. All of this while the infatuated lover extends a suggestive, phallic arm.
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 original owner remains unclear. A firm provenance begins only with the tax farmer Marie-François Ménage de Pressigny, who was guillotined in 1794,  after which it was seized by the revolutionary government. It was possibly later owned by the marquis des Razins de Saint-Marc, and certainly by the duc de Morny. After his death in 1865, it was bought at auction in Paris by Lord Hertford, the main founder of the Wallace Collection. 
Jean- Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing was essentially a commission passed to him by another painter Gabriel-François Doyen. The painting’s storyline and composition was proposed to Doyen by a gentleman of the court, who wanted a painting of him and his mistress. The exact identity of the patron is unknown, though he was at one time thought to have been the Baron de Saint-Julien, the Receiver General of the French Clergy, which would have explained the request to include a bishop pushing the swing. Gabriel Doyen refused the commission and instead passed it on to Fragonard who removed any references to specific people but kept the concept of the original proposal.
Click on the detail to see the full image.
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’s iconic painting is one of the most emblematic images of 18th-century French art. A young woman wearing a lovely pink silk frock is tantalisingly positioned mid-air on a swing between her elderly husband on the right and her young lover on the left. The force of the swing caused one of her slippers to fly off, resulting in a privileged view for her lover whose delight is suggested by the symbolic offer of his hat.