The Swing

The Rococo period, or the Late Baroque era, occurred in the 18th century. This era is very unique and expresses excessive lavishness (imagine the lavishness of the Renaissance and times that by ten!) Architecture during this time is filled with ornaments, including asymmetrical and curves that completed fill the space. A good example of this can be seen in the inside of the Basilica Ottobeuren in Germany (right), Staircase in Gruber Mansion in Solvenia (left), and the Princess’s Salon in the Hotel de Soubise in Paris (bottom):

In paintings, artists typically includes lighter pastel colors. They also incorporated curves and ornamental features. What I’ve noticed in Rococo paintings is that artists tend to fill in the works, either with landscape or people; this feature can be extremely overwhelming and imitating, but it makes the works beautiful. Some examples of artworks from this time are:

The particular artwork that I wanted to go over today is The Swing created in 1767 by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Fragonard is a french painter and printmaker during this time.


This painting represents a young lady on a swing with two men in the work. There is a man on the left who is laying on the grass and can see under her dress. The woman is also showing her ankle which suggests that the relationship with the man underneath is romantic (showing ankles during this time was risky and flirty). There is also suggestion of the man being her lover because of the putto above him, most likely representing cupid, who has his finger to his mouth; this could possibly suggest that this relationship may have been a secret affair. There is debate about who is pushing the woman. In class, I learned that the man pushing her is her husband, and online I found a piece saying that it is a Bishop.

At first this work was meant to be painted by Gabriel François Doyen, but once he heard the subject matter of this piece he decided he didn’t want to based on the scandalous subject matter. Therefore, Fragonard took up the painting and had no problem with the subject.

Now I wanted to compare this artwork to a modern sculpture that was inspired by this painting. It was created by Yinka Shonibare in 2001.

The Swing (after Fragonard) 2001 by Yinka Shonibare, MBE born 1962

The Swing (after Fragonard) is an installation in which a life-size headless female mannequin, extravagantly attired in a dress in eighteenth-century style made of bright African print fabric, reclines on a swing suspended from a verdant branch attached to the gallery ceiling. Beneath her, a flowering vine cascades to the floor. The figure is static, poised at what appears to be the highest point of her swing’s forward trajectory. Her right knee is bent, while her left leg stretches out in front of her, causing her skirts to ride up. She appears to have just kicked off her left shoe, which hangs mid-air in front of the figure, suspended on invisible wire…

The artist’s intention is that the piece should be viewed straight on, with the figure seen from the same angle Fragonard depicted it in the painting. However, because the installation is rendered in three dimensions, viewers can walk around the swinging woman in the gallery space, placing themselves in the position of either of the men in the painting. The audience becomes directly implicated in the erotic voyeurism of Fragonard’s image, and, like the reclining man in the painting, can also look up the woman’s skirt. The mannequin wears knickers made of the same fabric as her underskirt” (

I think this modern sculpture is significant to us viewers today because it shows that art, before our time, can be very influential to artwork created now, especially since the standards of art are more loose today (meaning that many individuals today have the ability to explore their creativity more freely) compared to previous eras before us.

Feature Image from | Madame Bergeret from



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