jean honore fragonard the swing who is the older man
The Swing (L’Escarpolette), originally known as Lucky Happenings on the Swing (Les Hasards heureux de l’escarpolette), is Fragonard’s best known work. It is believed to have been commissioned by the Baron de Saint-Julien, who wanted a picture of his mistress on a swing being pushed by a bishop, whilst he (the Baron) was so positioned as to be able to see up her the girl’s skirt. (Note: The Baron’s insistence on a bishop was probably a private joke, as he himself occupied an important position in the Church, as Receiver General of the French clergy.) As it was, Fragonard replaced the bishop with the more traditional figure of a cuckolded husband, but otherwise fullfilled the commission almost to the letter.
The Swing depicts a young man – concealed in the foliage – who is watching a young woman on a swing. (At the time, a swing was a conventional symbol for infidelity.) She is being pushed by an elderly man in the background who has no idea of the young man’s presence. At first glance, the picture appears to be a simple image of an innocent young woman at play, but then it becomes clear that the picture is deliberately risque and rather rascally. Because as the lady rides higher and higher on the swing, she allows her admirer to see up her dress – and even kicks her legs apart for his benefit. As she does so, she sends one of her shoes soaring towards a winged figure that could easily represent Cupid, the Roman god of desire and erotic love.
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. 
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. 
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.
Figure 1. Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, oil on canvas, 1767 (Wallace Collection, London)
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.”*
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.
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.
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.