the swing by fragonard is a classic example of painting from what period
Name: The Swing (L’Escarpolette) (1767)
Artist: Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806)
Medium: Oil painting on canvas
Genre: Genre painting
Movement: Rococo art
Location: Wallace Collection, London
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.
There are two notable copies, neither by Fragonard.
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.
In its context at Hertford House, hung on pale blue silk walls, this picture provides a perfect glimpse of mid-18th-century aristocratic France. But the importance of such iconic images is that they also inspire future artistic generations. Turner-prize nominee Yinka Shonibare recreated The Swing as a 21st century installation, the French coquette transposed into a headless mannequin wearing an African print dress, a reminder perhaps that the message of this painting is universal and timeless.
The man pushing the swing is older, perhaps the husband, whilst the lovestruck young man amongst the flowers has full view under her skirts of her stockinged legs, the height of eroticism in 18th century French art – the ‘happy coincidence of the swing’ alluded to in the painting’s longer title. A statue of a putto in the foreground has his finger to his lips to signify that the whole escapade is a naughty secret. Only the little dog, symbol of fidelity sitting loyally at his master’s feet, seems aware of what is happening and barks in alarm.
Oil on canvas – Collection of MusГ©e du Louvre, Paris, France
The Bolt is intended as an illustration of profane love, pendant to The Adoration of the Shepherds, painted two years earlier, which illustrates sacred love. The circumstances of the encounter in The Bolt are ambiguous; the questions of the man’s motivation and whether the woman is acquiescing by choice or force are left unclear. The objects surrounding the pair, however, indicate the aftermath of the moment captured in the painting. The bed is in a state of disorder and the room is scattered with erotic symbols, including an upturned chair, flowers and fruit and the bolt itself, all of which would have been easily readable to an 18 th -century audience. The Bolt is striking for its chiaroscuro and its reduced palette, indicating a shift away from the sumptuous Rococo forms and colors for which he is predominantly known and showcasing his mastery of composition and narrative staging. Fragonard’s brushstrokes are less pronounced in this image; the increased realism and the comparatively spare, shadowy backdrop can be seen as both an attempt to transition toward Neoclassicism and an anticipation of 19 th -century Romanticism.
In the background of the composition one can see what was originally going to be the Bishop requested by the perverse Baron, but which was changed to the mistress’s husband by Fragonard. The husband plays a lesser role, being immersed in shadow while the Baron is illuminated under the maiden’s dress.
In addition, the Dutch of this time period were notorious for their inclusion of small symbolic items, which appear in The Swing in the case of the embracing putti and Cupid with his finger over his lips, to symbolize the secrecy of the affair. These are all reminiscent of earlier works by Rubens.