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His Most Famous Painting (The Swing) – Jean-Honore Fragonard

His Most Famous Painting (The Swing) – Jean-Honore Fragonard

Jean-Honore Fragonard (April 05, 1732-August 22, 1806) was a French painter and printmaker of high repute. His creative ‘Rococo’ style was elaborate and cheerful, with ‘Genre Paintings’ being his forte. Fragonard created over 550 paintings, exclusive of the countless drawings and etchings. Out of this huge lot, only five artworks are dated. Jean Fragonard’s most famous painting “The Swing” or “the Happy Accidents of the Swing (French: Les Hasards Heureux de l’Escarpolette)” (1769) is by far one of the best ‘Rococo’ works globally.

Measuring 81 cm x 64.2 cm, Jean’s “The Swing” is colorful, attractive, oil on canvass painting, brimming with verve. It shows a young woman wearing a candy colored, flowing dress, a touch of fashion completed by a hat. She is enjoying high swings in a garden, with a Bishop, probably her lover, pushing the swing hanging from a large, thick tree. A young man, hidden behind the bushes, is watching the woman. As she goes high on the swing, the backwards reclined man is able to get a sneaky peep up her legs, under the dress, ‘Symbolizing’ the loss of virginity. Themed on carefree enthusiasm, Jean Honore’s “The Swing” shows the woman carelessly letting off one of her shoes in the air. The statues around seem to acknowledging the scene with a sculptural silence.

According to Charles Colle’s autobiography, a young man first asked Gabriel Francois Doyen to make this painting of him and his mistress. Not comfortable with the idea of this casually, perky work, Francois Doyen recommended Jean-Honore for it. “The Swing” was an instant success. It is believed that Jean made several versions of “The Swing,” each unique in its own right though. Grimaldi and Labeyrie Collection gave a smaller version, sized 56 × 46 cm, to the Musee Lambinet in the city of Versailles, where “The Swing” is presently displayed. Virgile Josz has mentioned about the following three replicas of “The Swing” in his book ‘Fragonard: moeurs du XVIIIe siecle,’ written in 1901. Baron Bollioud de Saint-Julien owned the original painting, which was sold to the Duke of Morny, when the baron died in 1788. Sir Richard Wallace then bought it and presently “The Swing” by Jean Fragonard is a part of the ‘Wallace Collection,’ London, United Kingdom. Another version of “The Swing” is slightly different, with the woman’s dress being blue, instead of the original candy. Edmond James de Rothschild owns it. Duc Jules de Polignac owns an even smaller version of “The Swing.”

Undoubtedly, Jean-Honore Fragonard stands as a prominent figure in the world of ‘Rococo Paintings,’ with artworks like “The Swing” vouching for it. He has truly passed a legacy of creative innovation to inspire several generations of existing as well as future artists.