in jean-honoré fragonards the swing the young mans position reflects that of
The Nightmare (1781) by Henry Fuseli.
Detroit Institute of Arts.
The joyful exuberance of the painting is accentuated by the way that the frills of the girl’s dress match the pattern of the surrounding foliage, as well as by its glowing pastel colours and soft lighting. This erotic snapshot – this masterpiece of Rococo art, commemorating the spirit of aesthetic refinement and aristocratic decadence on the eve of the French Revolution – shows that in the area of titillation, Fragonard is simply incomparable.
This tender scene may illustrate an episode from a sentimental novel, Le Roman de Miss Sarah Th. in which a young English girl put aside wealth and position for life in the countryside with a poor but virtuous man. The narrator relates, “together they bent over the cradle and looked, first at the child and then at each other, holding hands and smiling.” The theme’s popularity reflects Rousseau’s emphasis on natural human emotions and family life as well as a general longing to escape the artificiality of society. Fragonard is also responding to critics and middle-class audiences who called for art to contribute to domestic virtue. Not only is this nursery far from the lighthearted games in the artist’s other works, but also the more subdued style emphasizes the story rather than his painting technique. The rigidly formal composition, restrained color scheme, and more controlled brushwork all point to the increasingly sober character of painting in France during the years before the revolution.
Boucher and Fragonard
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The lady’s slipper, which flies off her foot as she swings so easily, is another playful touch which helps accentuate the erotic subject matter, as well as providing a visual focus in the splash of sunlight.
His mistress flies through the air on a sylvan swing, the lovely young lady giving herself away to frivolous abandon, her shoe flying off in the heat of the moment.
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