jean honore fragonard the swing
Interpretation of Other 18th Century Paintings
Oath of the Horatii (1785) by Jacques-Louis David.
Louvre Museum, Paris.
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. 
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). Two statues are present, one of a putto, who watches from above the young man on the left with its finger in front of its lips in a sign of silence, the other of pair of putti, who watch from beside the older man, on the right. There is a small dog shown barking in the lower right hand corner, in front of the older man. 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 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.
The original owner remains unclear. A firm provenance begins only with the tax farmer M.-F. Ménage de Pressigny, who died 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.
Also know as The Happy Accidents of the Swing, this painting is considered one of the great master works of the Rococo era. The picture depicts a young woman on a tree swing, being pushed by her husband. The young woman is clearly flirting with the young man in the foreground, of whom her husband is unaware. The painting was first commissioned to Gabriel Francois Doyen by a young nobleman, to depict him and his mistress. Doyen, of the opinion that the painting was frivolous, refused the commission and passed it on to Fragonard. This painting has influences many later works, from paintings to sculptures, the most recent being the animated feature film Tangled, created in the style of the painting.
School of Fontainebleau:
The infamous French palace, decorated in the late 1500s by a group of painters headed by Rosso Fiorentino, specialized in eroticizing the mythological or classical subjects that were requested for the aristocrats of the time, serving as a precursor for the fanciful tastes that the later nobles would request.
In contrast, other aspects of the painting remain in shadow, such as the husband, possibly referencing his being “in the dark” as to his wife’s affair.