a look at

The Swing Painting

WHO WAs jean-honoré fragonard?

Fragonard has been considered one of the greats of French painting, although his name was obscured for some time. He mostly painted genre scenes in the Rococo art style.

in context

The Swing, otherwise titled as L’Escarpolette in French, is a Rococo painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. It has alternatively been titled The Happy Accidents of the Swing, and in French, it is Les hasards heureux de l’escarpolette.

historical overview

The Swing is more than just a woman on a swing, it is a peepshow into 18th-century French aristocratic customs and cultures, including the art style at the time, which was known as Rococo.

the inside story

Fragonard’s “client” requested a depiction of his mistress and himself. She was requested to be portrayed on a swing with a bishop pushing her, while the client was in the bushes with a full-frontal view of his maîtresse.

subject matter

A young woman as the central figure, she is wearing a beautiful light pink-peach dress or gown. She enlivens the scene as she swings, As she swings forward, she flings her heeled slipper from her left foot.


In front and a bit below the woman, in the rose bushes, is a gentleman looking up at her, and what appears to be accidentally up her dress. He appears to have fallen over.


We will notice there is another man behind the woman. This man is possibly her husband, unaware of the younger-looking gentleman in front of her in the bushes, who is possibly her lover.


There are many symbolic references, each suggestive of sexual desire, courtship, infidelity, and restriction. The Cupid statue is reminiscent of Etienne-Maurice Falconet’s Menacing Cupid (1757). The woman is an embodiment of letting loose.

color and light

Fragonard created a contrast of light and dark by highlighting the woman as she swings. She also appears to be the only colorful figure in the composition, where her dress is like a beacon of color and light.


There is a variety of implied textures in this composition, starting with the woman’s dress, which appears soft and almost weightless as the air combs through it on the swing. There is a looseness and expressiveness in Fragonard’s manner.

line, form, and shape

There is a sense of movement and dynamism created by the forward motion of the swing, this is highlighted by the ropes tied to the trees above the woman.