November 3, 2011

Ohh! Rococo!

Even the cherubs look dismayed.

Baron de St. Julien asked Fragonard to depict him in the foreground of his 1766 painting, where he could "see the legs of this charming girl, and more, if you want to enliven your picture still further." The Baron was the Receiver General of the French Clergy; a tax collector. He is seen in the shrubbery by the rake, whereas his mistress's clueless husband, plays the cuckold, swinging his wife ever higher.

Fragonard's The Swing stands for the values of the time. Infidelity was a privilege of the 18th century French aristocracy. This promiscuity stood  for how courtly life was perceived. The idle rich running about sexually rampant seemed decadent. And it was corrupt, decadent and decaying. Rococo style would soon be replaced by the more moralizing Neoclassicism. Shimmering boudoirs gave way to solidity. Rococo curlicues smoothed into bold flat planes of colour.

The rising middle class in France preferred Neoclassicism and the moral enlightenment it was pointing toward. In a generation many of Rococo's patrons would have a date with Madame Guillotine.


Kathy Bischoping said...

Mmm, "Shimmering boudoirs gave way to solidity." But the moral enlightenment turned out pretty weird too. The Charlotte Corday & Marat chapter, for e.g.

Ima Wizer said...

Wonderful, wonderful.....I've loved this painting in art history classes.....note how off her proportions are, bordering on Mannerism.....
Hope you are well and all is good in your life,
Ima Stillhere

Hollie said...