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The Swing (painting)

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Year  ca. 1767
Artist  Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Location  Wallace Collection
Created  1767
Medium  Oil on canvas
Dimensions  81 cm x 64 cm
Period  Rococo
The Swing (painting) Jean Honore Fragonard The Swing painting The Swing print for sale
Genres  Genre art, History painting
Similar  Jean-Honoré Fragonard artwork, Rococo artwork, Oil paintings

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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 Swing (painting) The Swing by JeanHonor Fragonard on ArtEx

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 right 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.

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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.

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This style of "frivolous" painting soon became the target of the philosophers of the Enlightenment, who demanded a more serious art which would show the nobility of man.


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The original owner remains unclear. A firm provenance begins only with the tax farmer M.-F. Ménage de Pressigny, who died 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.

Notable copies

There are two notable copies, neither by Fragonard.

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  • One, once owned by Edmond James de Rothschild, is slightly different from the original: the lady's dress is blue, not pink
  • 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, it was given by the Grimaldi & Labeyrie Collection to the city of Versailles, where it is currently exhibited at the Musée Lambinet, attributed to Fragonard's workshop.
  • Notable derived works

  • 1782: Les Hazards [sic] Heureux de l'Escarpolettes [sic], etching and engraving by fr:Nicolas de Launay (1739–1792), 62.3 × 45.5 cm (24 ⅝ × 17 ⅞ in). Contrary to the original painting, the lady is facing right and has plumes on her hat (among other dissimilarities) because it was drawn after the replica owned by Edmond de Rothschild.
  • 1999: The first act of the ballet Contact: The Musical by Susan Stroman and John Weidman is described as a "contact improvisation" on the painting.
  • 2001: The Swing (after Fragonard), a headless lifesize recreation of Fragonard's model clothed in African fabric, by Yinka Shonibare
  • References

    The Swing (painting) Wikipedia

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