The Swing (painting)

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The Swing
Fragonard, The Swing.jpg
ArtistJean-Honoré Fragonard
Yearca. 1767
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions81 cm × 64.2 cm (​31 78 in × ​25 14 in)
LocationWallace 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 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,[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 Swing (centre), as displayed at the Wallace Collection, London.

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]

Notable copies[edit]

There are two notable copies, neither by Fragonard.

Notable derived works[edit]

  • 1782: Les Hazards Heureux de l'Escarpolettes, etching and engraving by fr: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.
  • 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]
  • 2013: The animated Disney film Frozen displays a version of The Swing in a scene when lead character Anna dances through an art gallery singing "For the First Time in Forever."[12]


  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. ^ Fragonard, The Swing. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  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.[permanent dead link]

  10. ^ Terry Byrne (14 June 2008). "Moving tales of love make 'contact'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 8 August 2018. '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. ^ "Look What We Found in Frozen | Disney Insider". Oh My Disney. 2013-12-10. Retrieved 2019-07-30.


External links[edit]

External video
Fragonard's The Swing, Smarthistory