The Swing (painting)

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The Swing
Fragonard, The Swing.jpg
Artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Year ca. 1767
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 81 cm × 64.2 cm (31 78 in × 25 14 in)
Location Wallace Collection, London, United Kingdom

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.[1]


The painting depicts a young man hidden in the bushes, watching a woman on a swing, being pushed by an elderly man, almost hidden in the shadows, and unaware of the lover. As the lady goes high on the swing, she lets the young man take a furtive peep under her dress, all while flicking her own shoe off in the direction of a Cupid and turning her back to two angelic cherubim on the side of the older man.

The lady is wearing a bergère hat (shepherdess hat) which is ironic since shepherds are normally associated with virtue because of their living close to nature, uncorrupted by the temptations of the city.

According to the memoirs of the dramatist Charles Collé,[2] a courtier (homme de la cour)[3] 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.[2] The man had requested a portrait of his mistress seated on a swing being pushed by a bishop, but Fragonard painted a layman.

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.[4]


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.[5]


There are a number of copies, none by Fragonard.

Notable derived works[edit]

  • 1782: Les Hazards [sic] Heureux de l'Escarpolettes [sic], etching and engraving by Nicolas de Launay (1739–1792), 62.3 × 45.5 cm (24 ⅝ × 17 ⅞ in).[9] 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.
  • 1972: Sailin' Shoes, cover art of record album by American rock band Little Feat, artwork by Neon Park
  • 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.[10]
  • 2001: The Swing (after Fragonard), a headless lifesize recreation of Fragonard's model clothed in African fabric, by Yinka Shonibare[11]
  • 2010: Tangled, a Disney film based on the "Rapunzel" story, based its visual style on The Swing.[12]
  • 2013: In Frozen, a painting based on The Swing hangs in Arendelle's palace (as a reference to Tangled)[13] during "For the First Time in Forever," when Anna jumps in front of it and copies the pose of the woman on the swing. The version in the film omits the statue of Cupid and the male figure in the bushes.


External video
Fragonard's The Swing, Smarthistory[4]
  1. ^ Ingamells, 164
  2. ^ a b Collé, Charles. Journal et mémoires de Charles Collé sur les hommes de lettres, les ouvrages dramatiques et les événements les plus mémorables du règne de Louis XV (1748-1772) III. Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Fils et Cie. pp. 165–166. 
  3. ^ Although his identity was not unveiled by Collé, it has been thought that it was Marie-François-David Bollioud de Saint-Julien, baron of Argental (1713–1788), best known as Baron de Saint-Julien, the then Receiver General of the French Clergy. However there is little evidence for this, according to Ingamells, 163-164.
  4. ^ a b "Fragonard's The Swing". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved January 21, 2013. 
  5. ^ Ingamells, 165
  6. ^ a b Wallace Collection (1908). Catalogue of the Oil Paintings and Water Colours in the Wallace Collection (8th ed.). A repetition of by no means equal merit is in the collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild ; a smaller version was in that of the Duc de Polignac (see Virgile Josz: Fragonard). 
  7. ^ Bremmer, Jan (1991). From Sappho to De Sade: Moments in the History of Sexuality. Routledge. pp. 80–81. ISBN 978-0-415-06300-5. Note 4: According to Nevill (1903), a replica with a blue instead of a pink dress is in the possession of Baron de Rothschild. 
  8. ^ "L'escarpolette". Catalogue des Collections des Musées de France. Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication. Retrieved 2009-01-18. 
  9. ^ "About This Artwork – The Art Institute of Chicago". Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
    "R. S. Johnson Fine Art". R. S. Johnson Fine Art. Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
  10. ^ Terry Byrne (14 June 2008). "Moving tales of love make 'contact'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 'Swinging' tells the story behind a painting by 18th-century artist Jean-Honore Fragonard, in which a girl on a swing (Ariel Shepley) is teasing her companion (Jake Pfarr), while a servant (Sean Ewing) pushes the swing for her. 
  11. ^ "Yinka Shonibare, MBE The Swing (after Fragonard), Yinka Shonibare, MBE Tate". Tate. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  12. ^ Desowitz, Bill (2005-11-04)."Chicken Little & Beyond: Disney Rediscovers its Legacy Through 3D Animation". Animation World Magazine. Retrieved 2006-06-05.
  13. ^


External links[edit]

Media related to Les Hasards heureux de l'escarpolette at Wikimedia Commons