National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Swing Jean-Honoré Fragonard (artist)
French, 1732 - 1806
The Swing, c. 1775/1780
oil on canvas
overall: 215.9 x 185.5 cm (85 x 73 1/16 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.17
On View
From the Tour: 18th-Century France — Boucher and Fragonard
Object 4 of 8

With children's games glimpsed from above in an immense expanse of earth and sky, Fragonard presents a vision of nature, imposing yet tamed by civilization. These are not forests, but gardens resembling the magical Villa d'Este, where Fragonard sketched in Italy. Light creates volume in the towering clouds and breaks through in patches on the ground to illuminate the small figures as if they were on a distant stage.

The Swing and Blindman's Buff, designed together, trace the progress of love. In one, a blindfolded young woman reaches out to tag and identify another player in a game that since the Middle Ages had symbolized the folly of love. In the 1700s this meaning was viewed with indulgence: youths were meant to grasp at love. In the companion painting another young woman sits on a swing pulled by a youth who is barely visible in the shadows between the lion fountains. The swinging motion, which brings her skirts and legs into view, suggested erotic abandon. The two are lovers, who have "found" each other, as the players in Blindman's Buff are attempting to do.

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