The Swing (painting)

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The Swing
Fragonard, The Swing.jpg
Artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Year ca. 1767
Medium 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 who, hiding in the bushes on the left, watches an elegant young woman on a swing. She is being pushed higher and higher by a much older and uglier man, who is nearly hidden in the shadows on the right. The ugly older man is unaware of the young man, who is presumably the young woman's lover, or soon be so.

As the young lady goes up high on the swing, she throws her right leg up, making her delicate little shoe fly through the air, and allowing the young man to look right up her dress. It is worth noting in this context that during this time period, women in the Western World wore petticoats or chemises, but no panties or knickers.

A statue of the Greek god of discretion watches from the left, and a statue of pair of angelic cherubim watch from beside the older man.

The lady is wearing a bergère hat (shepherdess hat). This is an ironic touch, since shepherds are normally associated with virtue, because of 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 an ugly 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
  • 1976: The scene in The Slipper and the Rose where Cinderella is seen swinging on a chair surrounded by climbing flowers while she is in exile is a direct reference to the "The Swing" by Jean-Honore Fragonard. Every detail of Cinderella's costume and setting are identical to the painting, right down to the color of her dress, the style of her hat, and the climbing flowers on her swing.
  • 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: The animated film Tangled uses a visual style based on The Swing.[12]
  • 2013: In Frozen, a painting based on The Swing appears in the portrait gallery in Arendelle's castle (as a reference to Tangled)[13] during "For the First Time in Forever." In one shot, Anna jumps in front of the painting 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.
  • 2015: The live-action Disney film Cinderella homages the painting in a scene where Ella rides a swing in the prince's secret garden while he pushes, during which her shoe falls off.[14]


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. ^ "Look What We Found in Frozen". Disney. December 10, 2013. Retrieved 2015-10-02. REPURPOSED PAINTING – Artist Lisa Keene’s painting—completed during the development phase of Tangled and based on “The Swing” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard—made such an impression on Frozen filmmakers, it became part of Anna’s signature song,  
  14. ^ "The Fine Art Diner - Kindness and Courage: Cinderella (2015)". 2015-03-14. Retrieved 2015-10-02. While the painting doesn't appear directly in Cinderella, I would like to posit that it's invoked when Kit takes Ella to his "secret garden" and pushes her on the swing 


External links[edit]

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