jean-honoré fragonard the swing 1766 oil on canvas
Interpretation of Other 18th Century Paintings
A highly important figure in 18th century French painting, who now ranks among the greatest of all Rococo artists, the exceptionally talented Fragonard trained under Francois Boucher – whose main patron was Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour – and Jean Chardin, famous for his still life painting and genre works. Winner of the Prix de Rome run by the French Academy, he was influenced by the pastoral scenes of Nicolas Poussin and above all by the freer, more colourful painting of Giambattista Tiepolo, famous for his Wurzburg Residence frescoes (1750-53). During the mid-1760s, revitalizing the idiom pioneered by Jean-Antoine Watteau, Fragonard began to specialize in the playful, erotic compositions for which he is now most famous. His delicate 18th century colour palette, witty content and fast brushwork gave even his most voyeuristic canvases a wonderful atmosphere of gaiety and joyfulness.
There are two notable copies, neither by Fragonard.
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. 
In the early years of the 1700s, at the end of the reign of Louis XIV (who dies in 1715), there was a shift away from the classicism and “Grand Manner” (based on the art of Poussin) that had governed the art of the preceding 50 years, toward a new style that we call Rococo.Versailles was abandoned by the aristocracy, who once again took up residence in Paris. A shift away from the monarchy, toward the aristocracy characterizes this period.
Figure 1. Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, oil on canvas, 1767 (Wallace Collection, London)
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.
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.
This portrait, likely of Louis FranГ§ois Prault, a publisher in Paris, is one of a series that are now known as the ‘Fantasy Figures.’ The Writer shows a man, dressed in a historical costume consisting of a yellow and red shirt with white ruff and cuffs, secured with a black bow hanging loosely at the chest, posed with quill and open book at a desk. The figure turns away from the desk and looks toward the right-hand side of the canvas, giving an impression of spontaneity and confidence. In this painting, as in others from the same series, the figures appear as archetypes rather than individuals, shown engaged in activities or with accessories that indicate their profession, and posed in theatrical dress that serves to unify the group and create a suggestion of performance.
In the 18 th century, bathing scenes were often a pretext to show the nude in a variety of positions and from a range of angles, showcasing the painter’s skill whilst also providing the viewer with a visual pleasure that verged toward the titillating. The painting showcases Fragonard’s lightness in both theme and palette; the colors, in their gentleness, are suited toward their subject, imbuing the women with an innocence that heightens their appeal. The brushstrokes are loose and palpable, providing a sensuousness, physicality, and fluidity that contributes to the painting’s liveliness. Fragonard stopped exhibiting his paintings in 1767, preferring to focus on work for private clients, and this is among the last to be displayed in an academic setting.