Fragonard, always so socially committed, portrays the life of the most disadvantaged at that time. Two wigged Frenchmen are swinging an exuberant courtesan. One of them lies down among nature to see if he can see something under those rococo skirts that produce cloying.
The implied narrative of The Swing, like the best gossip, has contributed to the painting's enduring popularity with aesthetes and sophisticates; scandal never goes out of style.
A sculpture with its own complicated history and set of associations, the menacing Cupid adds a serious note to the composition, with the permanence of the marble a reminder that time can be cruel to love; the sensual pleasure celebrated in the painting is like the climax of a swing in motion, momentary and unsustainable. The young woman on the swing looks like a flower, her skirts like petals, echoing in color and texture those of the bushes below, suggesting that she, like a flower, will fade after being plucked. Her beauty is made more valuable by her impending loss; she is momentarily illuminated but will move away from the light when her bow is reversed. The garden, a space outside the artificial rules of society, was associated with freedom and the natural, enhancing this thematic depth and allowing Fragonard to create drama through contrasts of light and shadow.
The Swing is ranked no. 12 on the list of famous paintings
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