the swing fragonard rococo
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.
Interpretation of Other 18th Century Paintings
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. 
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. 
Clearly Fragonard had no qualms in fulfilling the Baron’s bawdy requests as one glance at The Swing shows that the painting is bursting with incomparable glee and rapture. The star, wearing a fluffy, ballet-pink dress, flies on a luscious red-cushioned swing through the outlandish foliage until she kicks her pink mule off of her foot, letting the ecstatic gentleman below see up her skirt.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, detail of “The Swing,” 1767 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
What kind of lifestyle did the aristocracy lead during this period? Remember that the aristocracy had enormous political power as well as enormous wealth. Many chose leisure as a pursuit and became involved themselves in romantic intrigues. Indeed, they created a culture of luxury and excess that formed a stark contrast to the lives of most people in France. The aristocracy, only a small percentage of the population of France, owned over 90% of its wealth. A small, but growing middle class does not sit still with this for long (remember the French Revolution of 1789).
As with most Rococo paintings, the subject of Fragonard’s The Swing is not very complicated! Two lovers have conspired to get this older fellow to push the youg lady in the swing while her lover hides in the bushes. Their idea is that as she goes up in the swing, she can part her legs, and he can get a perfect view up her skirt.
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.
Love Letters is the last of four panels Fragonard painted for the Comtesse du Barry’s pavilion at Louveciennes. This series, The Progress of Love, illustrates the stages of a romantic relationship through pursuit, meeting, commitment and friendship. The iconography of each panel is very dense and is facilitated by the garden setting in which the surrounding sculpture, animals and plants carry meaning in accordance with established tradition. In Love Letters, a man and a woman are shown reading letters while tenderly embracing, suggesting reminiscence of early courtship from a position of greater security; at their feet is a spaniel, signifying fidelity, and they are watched over by a statue personifying friendship, who refuses to surrender the heart she holds at her chest to the cupid that reaches for it.