what is the significance of cupids gesture on the left-hand side of fragonards 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.
The joyful exuberance of the painting is accentuated by the way that the frills of the girl’s dress match the pattern of the surrounding foliage, as well as by its glowing pastel colours and soft lighting. This erotic snapshot – this masterpiece of Rococo art, commemorating the spirit of aesthetic refinement and aristocratic decadence on the eve of the French Revolution – shows that in the area of titillation, Fragonard is simply incomparable.
The gentleman in the lower left is young and virile. He is in the prime of life and wants to experience the pleasures of his lady love. He is her suitor. He represents sex. Is it no coincidence that the suitor with carnal desires is lying amongst the flowers on the ground hidden from the husband? He takes the opportunity to look upwards at his lover, and to look inwards at her petticoat. You cannot see anything from the viewer’s perspective except the lady’s legs and stockings, but from the tilt of his head, the angle of her dress, and the smile on his face, the young lover is viewing more than what is respectable. With this realisation, Fragonard’s The Swing takes on highly erotic overtones, and is quite scandalous in its subject. We have a cheating wife who is allowing her concealed lover to take a peek at her underwear, if she is wearing any…
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Swing, c.1767, Wallace Collection, London. Detail.
Jean Honoré Fragonard, “The Swing,” 1767
@Bob – thank you for your considered response. The greatest lesson I have learnt looking at adaptations of mythological subjects is that they are malleable to the whim of the artist – from a greek vase painter to Twombly!
Oil on canvas – Banque de France
In the 18 th century, bathing scenes were often a pretext to show the nude in a variety of positions and from a range of angles, showcasing the painter’s skill whilst also providing the viewer with a visual pleasure that verged toward the titillating. The painting showcases Fragonard’s lightness in both theme and palette; the colors, in their gentleness, are suited toward their subject, imbuing the women with an innocence that heightens their appeal. The brushstrokes are loose and palpable, providing a sensuousness, physicality, and fluidity that contributes to the painting’s liveliness. Fragonard stopped exhibiting his paintings in 1767, preferring to focus on work for private clients, and this is among the last to be displayed in an academic setting.
Many women would run into their clients there.
-Allusion to high class prostitution (the Monkey and the woman fishing). Brothels were only closed on Sundays.