girl on the swing painting
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. 
This style of “frivolous” painting soon became the target of the philosophers of the Enlightenment, who demanded a more serious art which would show the nobility of man. 
Click on the detail to see the full image.
So here we have a young girl on the swing flying carelessly through the air, pushed from behind by an old man. Her right slipper flies, oh so conveniently, off her foot and suddenly the young man, lounging in the low bush, enjoying the view above him, comes into view. In fact, he is looking right up her frothy pink and cream skirt! So you see, it is a conspiracy of the two lovers whose flirtatious little game goes not only unnoticed by the old man, but where he is in fact an active participant in this concealed peep show. Furthermore, the painting is filled with symbolism. In the 18th century France, a woman’s shoeless foot symbolized nudity, as did the man’s uncovered head and his hat, reaching towards the young girl’s parted legs. “Dolphins driven by cupids drawing the water-chariot of Venus symbolize the impatient surge of love.”*
While this odd request was turned down by other painters such as Doyen, a painter of more serious historical subjects, Fragonard leapt to the occasion, producing what became the most iconic work of the French Rococo.
Overall Fragonard’s The Swing, rich with symbolism, not only manages to capture a moment of complete spontaneity and joie de vivre, but also alludes to the illicit affair that may have already been going on, or is about to begin.
This large canvas, designed as the centerpiece for a group of five paintings on the theme of play, is among Fragonard’s most ambitious works, engaging with issues of class and eighteen-century theories of the spectacle and memory. The FГЄte at Saint-Cloud shows a public fair held in the grounds of a chateau; crowds in varied styles of dress mill around multiple street theatres, a man with a monkey and vendors selling toys. Near the painting’s center is a fountain, spouting water high above these entertainments, and the scene is framed by billowing clouds and trees that dwarf the gathering. The viewer is positioned outside the scene, looking upon the crowd from afar, but is also, by virtue of the painting’s size, encouraged to psychologically enter into the world that it represents, moving closer to focus on individual elements.
Oil on canvas – Collection of Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain