rococo the swing
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.
Other instances of symbolism are also worth noting. In the foreground (right), a tiny lapdog – a symbol of faithfulness – sounds the alarm by barking, but the woman’s husband takes no notice. On the left, Cupid raises a finger to his lips to prevent the two Venus-putti beneath the swing from giving the game away, while the outstretched left arm of the young man (the Baron) has an obvious, phallic significance.
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.
- One copy, once owned by Edmond James de Rothschild,  portrays the woman in a blue dress. 
- The other is a smaller version (56 × 46 cm), owned by Duke Jules de Polignac.  This painting became the property of the Grimaldi family in 1930 when Pierre de Polignac (1895-1964) married Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois (1898-1977). In 1966, the Grimaldi & Labeyrie Collection gave it to the city of Versailles, where it is currently exhibited at the Musée Lambinet, attributed to Fragonard’s workshop. 
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, “The See-Saw,” 1750-5 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, “The Swing,” 1767 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
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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.
Oil on canvas – Banque de France
The Swing is one of Fragonard’s best-known works, a somewhat risquГ© composition depicting the mistress of the Baron de Saint-Julien. This young girl, positioned at the composition’s centre, appears on a swing, wearing a pink dress. She is pushed by a smiling man, who does not realise another man is amongst the shrubs, looking up her skirt. She, however, appears to have engineered the scene, looking down at him as she moves through the air. The scene is set against an unruly forest crowded with statuary alongside people and plants. The girl’s outstretched foot, from which a slipper flies, points at the most prominent sculpture, recognisable to viewers as Etienne-Maurice Falconet’s Menacing Cupid.