why does fragonard paint the young lady in the swing as losing a shoe
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.
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. 
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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.
Menacing Cupid, a sculpture that carried its own complicated history and set of associations, adds a serious note to the composition, with the permanence of marble serving as a reminder that time can be cruel with regard to love; the sensual pleasure celebrated in the painting is, like the climax of a moving swing, momentary and unsustainable. The young woman on the swing appears as if a flower, her skirts like petals, echoing in color and texture those in the shrubbery below, suggesting that she, like a bloom, will fade after being plucked. Her beauty is made more valuable by its imminent loss; she is momentarily illuminated but will fall away from the light as her arc reverses. The garden, a space outside the artificial rules of society, was associated with freedom and the natural, heightening this thematic depth whilst allowing Fragonard to create drama through contrasts in light and shade.
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The Nightmare (1781) by Henry Fuseli.
Detroit Institute of Arts.
For the meaning of other celebrated masterpieces,
please see: Famous Paintings Analyzed (1250-1800).