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May 2024

Vol. 166 / No. 1454

‘The swing’ by Jean-Honoré Fragonard: new hypotheses

By Yuriko Jackall

This article has been made available free to read in line with the publication of Burlington Contemporary Journal Issue 10. In the artist commission, through a combination of photography, video and text, Catherine Yass responds to Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing (1767) and its recent restoration at the Wallace Collection, London. Beginning with her recollections of distaste and humiliation when she first encountered the painting as a teenager, Yass considers its history, materiality, intimacy and temporality. Read here.

In October 1767, in a private journal that has become rich fodder for studies of eighteenth-century Paris, the dramatist Charles Collé (1709–1783) described a curious meeting with the painter Gabriel- François Doyen (1726–1806). The story that emerged from this encounter – of a painting so scandalous that one artist actually refused the commission – might have been taken straight from the pages of a friend of Collé, the libertine author Claude-Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon, called Crébillon fils (1707–77). It is quoted here in full: 

The subject of this work is St Genevive des ardents; it was made for one of the chapels in the church of Saint-Roch, and it will soon be placed there. The ergot poisoning [mal des ardents], or the plague if one wishes, is rendered in this painting with a force and an expression that won support from the ignorant and the knowledgeable, alike. It’s a life, a spirit, and a fire that one finds in few paintings; this one is outrageously beautiful. 

Would you believe, said this painter, that a few days after my picture was shown in the Salon, a man of the Court [un homme de la Cour] sent for me in order to commission one in the genre that I’m going to describe? This gentleman [seigneur] was at his pleasure house [petite maison] with his mistress when I presented myself to know what he wanted of me. He overwhelmed me at first with civilities and praise and finished by admitting that he was dying to have my interpretation of a painting on the following theme. 

‘I should like’, he continued, ‘that you paint madame (showing me his mistress) on a swing that a bishop would set in motion. You will place me in such a way that I would be at hand to see the legs of this lovely girl, and better still, if you want to brighten up your picture even more, etc.’ – ‘I admit,’ Doyen told me, ‘that this proposition, which I should never have had to expect, given the nature of the painting that he wanted me to do, confused and petrified me at first. However, I recovered myself sufficiently to say almost immediately: ‘Ah! Monsieur, it’s necessary to strengthen the idea of your painting, by having the slippers of madame fly off, and be caught by Cupids.’ But as I was very far from wishing to treat such a subject, so opposed to the genre in which I work, I addressed this gentleman [seigneur] to M. Fagonat [Jean-Honoré Fragonard], who set about it, and who is currently making this singular work.[1]

The central figure of Collé’s anecdote is described as a noble seigneur or a ‘man of the Court’. His stage, the ‘pleasure house’, to which Doyen is summoned, is one of those jewel-like, private dwellings sequestered in the suburbs of Paris in which desire could blossom away from society’s insistent gaze.[2] Such a backdrop also confirms his material wealth because anyone capable of entertaining at a petite maison commanded substantial resources – a satirical text written in 1748 by the Jesuit-turned-intellectual Gabriel-François Coyer (1707–82) suggested that a tax on petites maisons would aid in addressing the national debt crisis, so enormous were their cost and maintenance expenses.[3] The other characters – the courtesan and the bishop – recall stock figures of the anti-religious, libertine society that took as its creed the pursuit of material and sensual pleasure.[4] Its thrilling central ‘moment’ – to use Crébillon’s term for the narrative turning point at which self-control is abandoned – may have been suggested by Giacomo Casanova’s (1725–98) account of his evening at Les Fêtes vénitiennes, an opéraballet. [5] There, Casanova witnessed the dancer Mademoiselle Camargo (1710–70) delighting her audiences by performing athletic jumps on stage without wearing any undergarments.[6] 

Sensational as Collé’s story is, we must assume that Doyen did indeed receive and reject a singular offer from a well-placed gentleman. For it is a fact that the artist who subsequently inherited the brief, Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806), went on to produce a painting that contains many of the commission’s required elements: the cushioned swing; the movement that has whipped the girl’s pink skirt into a frothy, billowing mass; the outstretched, stockinged ankle; the flying pink mule; and the young man with his ecstatic gaze (Fig.3). Engraved in 1782 by the respected Nicolas Delaunay (1739–92) under the title Les hazards [sic] heureux de l’escarpolette (The happy accidents of the swing) (Fig.1), Fragonard’s painting is today in the Wallace Collection, London, where it is commonly known simply as The swing (Fig.2).[7] 

There is no image so closely associated with the bygone playfulness of the French ancien régime or the aesthetic movement known as the Rococo as this scene of love in a secluded setting, depicted at the very moment before the precipitous drop of a satin shoe, and the painting’s sway over the popular imagination cannot be overstated. Its cultural and historical significance has engendered much scholarship probing various issues that it raises, such as the degree to which it takes forward iconography set into motion by Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), or the visualisation of contemporary taste for vertiginous games.[8] Equally, The swing’s social implications – for discourses ranging from colonialism to voyeurism – have prompted powerful responses in contemporary art.[9] 

Yet The swing remains one of the least documented works in Fragonard’s career. The version of Collé’s account of the painting’s origins that has reached us is likely to be incomplete. The original manuscript of his journal was lost to fire in the Commune of 1871.[10] Two editions were published prior to this disaster, but the first of these, which appeared in 1807 under the direction of Antoine-Alexandre Barbier (1765–1825), omits the second and third paragraphs of the passage quoted at the beginning of this article.[11] It is therefore to the second edition, published by Honoré Bonhomme (1811–90) in 1868, that we owe the full account given here. However, Bonhomme, too, may have practised a certain degree of censorship. In his introduction, he admits having expunged certain ‘crude obscenities’ from the original text.[12] Although he does not further qualify this remark, his editorial approach may account for the ‘et cetera’ that abruptly concludes the final sentence of Collé’s third paragraph, seemingly cutting short the patron’s ideas in midflow. One cannot exclude the possibility that the anecdote that has come down to us is a reduced and sanitised version of a more developed narrative. 

In the absence of the original manuscript of Collé’s journal, it is impossible to know whether the misspelling (‘Fagonat’) of the artist’s name stems from a simple misreading of Collé’s handwriting or – potentially more significantly – betrays ignorance of Fragonard himself. The text that has reached us does not name the patron, an omission that deprives scholars of an important clue concerning the initial whereabouts of Fragonard’s painting. Moreover, it is light on identifying details regarding this gentleman. Even the ostensibly descriptive term ‘man of the Court’ is of little help since it was then used not only in its most rigid sense, to denote an appointed member or officer of the French court at Versailles, but also, more broadly, to describe a superior gentleman with perfect manners.[13] Collé himself used the term in both senses on multiple occasions, while Doyen (whose words Collé presumably transcribes) pragmatically worked for both the high nobility and the financier class, and is unlikely to have been overly precious in his description of a potential client.[14] 

Matters do not really improve from here. The next tangible allusion to the painting – the engraving of 1782 – bears a dedication, not to an owner, as would have been typical, but to the artist. The first concrete reference to its ownership is the inclusion of the painting in an inventory drawn up in 1794 – more than a quarter of a century after The swing was painted – of the collection of the guillotined fermier général (tax farmer) François-Marie Ménage de Pressigny (1734–94). In other words, only three partial and occasionally contradictory documents – Collé’s journal of 1767, Delaunay’s print of 1782 and the 1794 inventory – have until now comprised the entirety of information available on this visually stunning, conceptually confounding picture. 

A conservation and research project on the painting begun in 2021 opened up two significant avenues of inquiry, which brought new information to light and provided different ways of thinking about what was already known. The aim of the conservation was to return The swing as much as possible to its appearance when it left Fragonard’s easel. However, a comparison of the restored painting with Collé’s account suggests a disjunction between what the patron wanted and what the artist provided, one that arguably had an impact on The swing’s critical fortunes between 1767 and 1782. The question of these misaligned expectations is the focus of the first part of this article. The second part takes as its starting point the discovery, made during the course of treatment, that the painting was altered several years after its making; it will be argued that Fragonard was responsible for these changes. The timing of the interventions, it will be proposed, was fundamentally reflective of the needs of Collé’s ‘man of the Court.’ A third and final section, grounded in new archival discoveries, posits an identification of this shadowy figure. 

‘The Swing’ in 1767 

Prior to 2021, the painting lay hidden under a layer of yellowed varnish that had not been disturbed for as much as a century (Fig.4). Its gentle removal immeasurably brightened colours and sharpened details. Now, the faint bluish tinges on the lady’s inner arm evoke the pulse of blood under pale skin. The gauze-like material of her hat is suggested by the translucent shadow cast over the upper part of her face. Thickly applied white paint lends texture to her lacy bodice and there is a hint of ornamentation on the flying mule. The seat of her swing, with its soft velvet upholstery and gilded wooden base, suggests an item of furniture that would not be amiss in a contemporary salon.[15] The blue lining of the younger man’s suit flashes jauntily against its dove-grey exterior; there is a dusting of white powder from his wig on his right shoulder; his cheeks glow bright pink (see Fig.3). It also became apparent that the elderly man on the right sits on a stone bench rather than crouching in the foliage, as was previously thought. He is elegantly dressed, with newly revealed touches of blue shimmering on the surface of his suit. 

Fragonard paid similar attention to the setting. In the middle ground, behind a tree on the left, can be seen a distant fountain.[16] Jets of water spray upwards around a central decoration in the form of an embracing couple. Their figures are silhouetted against a lake, beyond which can be glimpsed another sculptural group. Such hints of an outside world add a sense of expansiveness to the scene, which may suggest that the rose-filled bower sits in the broader context of a country estate, or even a public park. The diffuse, bluish light creates a sense of gathering dusk. The sprays of flowers, dense foliage and scientifically depicted moss on the old tree in the lower right evoke warm weather, suggesting that the stage has been set for a romp on a summer evening. 

In bringing into spectacular focus the technical prowess that Fragonard invested in The swing, the conservation treatment reinforced the surprising fact that the painting was not mentioned in any context – whether in reports from the sale room, art criticism or even private correspondence – between 1767 and 1782. This cannot be a result of the painting’s titillating display of female limbs, for it was hardly unusual for news of sultry paintings to travel. Paintings far naughtier than The swing were passed around in the manner of trophies at this time. It was generally known, for example, that the Marquis de Marigny (1727–81) owned François Boucher’s (1703–70) Blonde odalisque (Fig.5), a representation of a nubile adolescent reclining face down on a sofa. In official correspondence with Charles-Joseph Natoire (1700–77) in 1753, Marigny (then Abel-François Poisson de Vandières) stated that he kept the painting in a ‘very small and very warm’ cabinet alongside other nudes.[17] By the time Blonde odalisque appeared in the 1782 sale after Marigny’s death, it was widely known thanks to a reproductive engraving by Gilles Demarteau.[18] Other collectors of such works kept a lower profile, but the contents of their collection were aired at the time of a change in ownership. For example, an even racier painting by Boucher – Woman urinating (Fig.6) – was in the 1784 catalogue of the auction of the collection of the art critic Louis-Guillaume Baillet, baron de Saint- Julien (1726–95), which recorded that it had been in the posthumous sale of the financier Pierre-Louis-Paul Randon de Boisset (1708–76).[19] In contrast, the conduct of the owner of The swing ensured a very different fate for that painting. In a society of appearance and rumour, in which the activities of prominent art collectors were carefully scrutinised, this individual – and presumably there was only one owner during this time as there is no mention of it having changed hands – managed to keep The swing completely secret.[20] The most likely explanation of how it could have stayed shrouded in silence for so many years is that no one else was allowed to see it, almost as if it were a problematic picture. But what could be the problem with The swing

That the ‘man of the Court’ had specifically wanted his painting to be sultry is clear from a close reading of Collé’s text. Collé returned to Paris on 1st October 1767 and encountered Doyen the following day. For his part, Doyen states that his summons to the petite maison occurred ‘a few days after’ his showing at the Salon, the biennial exhibition of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. This suggests that Doyen’s meeting with the ‘man of the Court’ occurred between late August and late September because the Salon invariably opened on 25th August and ran for exactly one month. This timing is important because Doyen made his name as a religious painter at the 1767 Salon with a large-scale depiction of St Genevieve ridding Paris of the epidemic of ergot poisoning – mal des ardents – that ravaged the city in 1129 (1767; Église Saint-Roch, Paris).[21] At the same moment, a comment by the critic Louis Petit de Bachaumont (1690–1771) on the same Salon reminded readers of the deleterious effects of Doyen’s all-consuming infatuation for the actress Adélaïde-Louise-Pauline Hus (1734–1805), a sociétaire of the Comédie française who was known for her numerous love affairs: ‘M. Doyen, having fallen in love with Mlle Hus, went long without doing anything’.[22] A high-minded artist with a gloss of worldly experience, Doyen was a strikingly appropriate choice to address each element of the desired composition: a heroic lover, a pretty mistress and a clergyman. 

The desired commission was thus to contain religious and romantic elements, a piquant combination that could only enhance its libertine charge, given that the private lives of the clergy was fodder for much contemporary scandal.[23] For example, in the early 1770s Arthur-Richard Dillon, archbishop of Narbonne (1721–1806), lived openly with his niece Lucie de Rothe (1751–82);[24] in the same years, the dissolute bishop of Orléans, Louis-Sextius de Jarente de La Bruyère (1706–88), was accused of conspiring with the dancer Marie-Madeleine Guimard (1743–1816) to sell promotions to members of the clergy.[25] Such liaisons were occasionally referenced in contemporary visual culture – that between Jarente and Guimard was supposedly recorded in a lost miniature showing the dancer serenaded by a trio of lovers, including Jarente – and it was certainly not unusual to see religious figures from the lower orders represented in works of art.[26] In 1765 Fragonard began to share a studio with Pierre-Antoine Baudouin (1723–69), in whose Le Matin (Morning) a black-frocked abbé eagerly eyes a sleeping woman while inserting one hand into his trousers (Fig.7).[27] 

It is clear that Fragonard largely set out to accommodate the ‘man of the Court’s desire for a titillating work. Although The swing is not as overtly sexual as The rising (Fig.8), in which a girl parades on a bed, pulling up her nightdress to reveal her genitalia, it nonetheless contains abundant signifiers of erotic intent.[28] Swings themselves were considered libidinous contraptions because they invited looking as legs and ankles were exposed during their oscillations; in this case the flash of bare flesh visible on the lady’s upper right leg implies that she is nude above her gartered stockings.[29] A sense of eroticism is equally introduced by the movement of her raised right hand. Before cleaning this appeared to be a rhetorical gesture mirroring the silencing motion of the sculpture on the left of the painting (Fig.9), an adaptation of the celebrated Menacing Cupid by Étienne-Maurice Falconet (1716–91) that had debuted at the Salon of 1755 as a plaster model and was shown in marble two years later (Fig.10).[30] Now, it is apparent that her little finger is raised along with her index finger in the shape of the horns of cuckoldry (Fig.11).[31] 

The use in French paintings of such earthy gestures, often associated with Naples, was not new. The young Italian woman in The Neapolitan gesture by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805) dismisses a would-be suitor by drawing her left hand under her chin in a flicking motion (Fig.12).[32] Fragonard was undoubtedly familiar with this painting, which was finished in Rome in 1757, when he and Greuze were both attached to the Italian satellite of the Académie royale.[33] Perhaps an even more relevant precedent was The sale of cupids by Joseph-Marie Vien (1716–1809), which was shown at the Salon of 1763 (Fig.13). In this depiction of elegant Roman ladies buying and selling love, a truculent cupid places his fist into the crook of his elbow.[34] The painting was based on a fresco discovered at the Villa di Arianna, Stabiae, in the eighteenth century (AD 1–50; Soprintendenza Speciale ai Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei), but what the art critic Denis Diderot (1713–84) described as the ‘indecent gesture of the little butterfly-Cupid that the slave holds by the wings’ was Vien’s addition, and its meaning was clear: ‘he has his right hand pressed against the crook of his left arm, which rises to indicate in a very significant way the sort of pleasure he promises’.[35] For Diderot, it aroused the passions of the serving woman on the right of the canvas; stirred by the sight of the Cupid, she makes a languorous move to lift her garment. Fragonard may well have had Vien’s expressive signal and its subtle result in mind when making his own picture. There are parallels between the similarly gesticulating embodiments of love in Vien’s picture and The swing. In the one, a sulky child is handed off to a group of eagerly awaiting women; in the other, an insouciant woman, seated on a child’s toy, sails towards a lover lying in wait. The outcome of her flight is further confirmed by the presence of the garden rake positioned almost parallel to the lover’s prone figure. This is almost certainly a bold doubleentendre, for in the parlance of the era the French term ratisser denoted not just the action of raking but also that of coitus.[36] 

Moreover, Fragonard arguably made an effort to please his patron on yet another count. According to Collé, the ‘man of the Court’ had an idiosyncratic request: ‘I should like that you paint madame (showing me his mistress) on a swing that a bishop would set into motion’. The word ‘portrait’ does not appear, but the contrasting use of definite and indefinite pronouns (‘his’ mistress; ‘a’ bishop) implies that the patron expected to recognise something of his mistress although he did not expect the bishop to be identifiable. The swing is thus akin to the representations of courtesans that circulated in the eighteenth century. For example, Boucher’s Blonde odalisque is commonly thought to represent the young painter’s model Marie-Louise O’Murphy (1737–1814), who was soon to become one of Louis XV’s lovers.[37] In 1776, the comte d’Artois commissioned from Lié- Louis Périn-Salbreux (1753–1817) a nude portrait of his mistress for the bathroom at the Château de Bagatelle.[38] She was the dancer Catherine- Rosalie Gérard Duthé (1748–1830), who coincidentally had herself been linked to Archbishop Dillon. Another painting by Périn-Salbreux from the same period, also probably made for Artois, depicts Duthé lying seminaked in a bed (Fig.14). 

Furthermore, Doyen’s would-be client expressed an interest in situating himself in the scene (‘you will place me in such a way that I would be at hand’). This is unusual, but there is a parallel for the inclusion of a portrait of a patron in a contemporary painting, albeit of a very different type. The well-loved mother by Greuze depicted the phenomenally wealthy banker Jean-Joseph de Laborde (1724–94) returning to a humble dwelling to find his wife embraced by their swarming children (Fig.15).[39] Greuze’s composition had received its first outing in 1765, as a highly finished drawing for a straightforward genre scene; the sentimental family composition inspired Laborde’s commission of a group portrait in which he and his wife took the place of the two protagonists.[40] 

If Fragonard’s patron wanted a portrait of himself, the results of the cleaning of The swing suggest that he should have been satisfied. The facial features of all three figures are rendered with remarkable specificity, at least for Fragonard. Like his teacher Boucher – whose portraits were judged ‘very pretty, but with little resemblance’ – Fragonard habitually took a short-hand approach to faces, resulting in easily attributable ‘types’.[41] His female figures are sprightly and doll-like, with small heads, tip-tilted noses and dotted-in, heavy-lidded eyes; his male figures are either tousle-haired and boyish, or bearded and weathered. Yet within these parameters there was room for variation. For instance, the rounded, rosy features and double chin of Woman with a dog (Fig.18) are distinct from the long, thin nose and pinched lips of the model in Portrait of a young woman (Fig.17). Individuality is equally discernible in the full cheeks, thin upper lip, large nostrils and pointed nose of the figure on the swing and in the large, striking eyes and dark brows of the young man on the ground. 

So far, Fragonard was in step with the ‘man of the Court.’ But in other respects, he deviated from his brief. According to Collé, a bishop was a key element of the desired composition, which may explain why the patron sought out an artist who had just made his name with a notable religious commission. Yet in Fragonard’s painting, the figure pushing the swing does not wear the mitre and red robes of a bishop, nor even the black or violet robes of a lower-ranked abbé. In fact, the absence of rabat, or clerical bands, confirms that he is not a clergyman at all.[42] It is true that Fragonard retained something of the bawdy humour that a servile priest would have injected into the scene: this elderly gentleman watches the lady’s figure so intently that he is unaware that water is bubbling over the surface of the bench, ready to drench his black hat. But even this humorous mishap comes across as poignant rather than overly comic. The fact that the older man is seated places him on the same social standing as the other two actors, while his singularly longing expression elevates him to the status of full-fledged participant in the melodrama. The emotional weight of his role is underlined by the presence of the little white dog in the lower-right corner. As a result of cleaning, the visage of this small animal has taken on added emotional intensity. Eyes blazing, mouth hanging open, he appears to bark furiously at the woman on the swing (Fig.16). It may be that this creature’s loyalties lie with the elderly gentleman.[43] 

There are also more subtle artistic choices that alter the spirit, if not the letter, of the commission. The scene is anchored on the left by the statue of Cupid. In introducing the iconography of Falconet’s sculpture, Fragonard was placing himself at odds with Doyen’s suggestion – presumably retained and transmitted by the ‘man of the Court’ – that flying putti should bear aloft the lady’s shoes. Doyen’s embellishment was tongue-in-cheek: the popular association between shoes and feminine virtue is demonstrated, for example, in Greuze’s Indolence (La Paresseuse italienne; 1756; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford), in which a (pregnant) kitchen maid has kicked off one mule.[44] In The swing, however, Cupid does not rush forward to catch the flying mule; rather, he watches its arc while raising a figure to his lips, thereby indicating that he will do nothing to retrieve the lost item that will instead go missing in the shrubbery. The subtle malice of this act is underlined by the fact that Cupid in The swing is grotesquely oversized. The compact, well-made body of Falconet’s sculpture has become a hulking form with an arm so long that it dangles awkwardly to the ankle.[45] It is equally reinforced by the fact that the lady concerned is perched on a seat that is hoisted aloft by coarse, dangerously fraying ropes, precariously attached to the gnarled branch of an old tree. 

The original pedestal of Falconet’s Cupid is a plain column of white marble adorned with an inscription exalting the power of love – qui que tu sois, voicy ton maitre / il l’est, le fut, ou le doit etre (‘Whoever you are, here is your master / He is, was, or must be’) – carved into the upper border and a regular series of elegant cannelures in the lower border. Subsequently reiterated on the base of every biscuit copy of the sculpture made at Sèvres from 1758 onwards, this inscription was inextricably linked to the identity of Falconet’s Cupid.[46] However, in Fragonard’s rendition this inscription was prominently replaced. Instead, twisting female forms dance across the base of the statue. One of these – the woman shown in diagonal motion, her back turned, left arm lowered to embrace the figure beside her, right arm raised exuberantly – may have been inspired by a copy by Willem Panneels (c.1600–c.1634) after a lost sketch by Peter Paul Rubens showing the orgiastic subject of the drunken Silenus being helped along by his attendants (Fig.19).[47] 

Here we arrive at the most plausible reason for which The swing might have been distasteful to the ‘man of the Court.’ At the base of this pedestal swarming with active female forms lies the well-dressed young lover (see Fig.3). This young man is wearing a wig. With his brightly coloured cheeks, he may also be sporting rouge, another affectation in which dandies of the era indulged. His depiction corresponds to that of the petit maître, or immaculately turned-out fop or fancy man, at home in the elegant confines of the salon.[48] These signifiers of worldliness appear frivolous in relation to the gravity of the older gentleman; they are comically out of place in the outdoor context. The young man lounges awkwardly on the bare earth, pushing back rose branches in order to catch a glimpse of a woman whom he could presumably see every day, in more comfortable circumstances. The passivity of his figure stands out in relation to the women on the pedestal – and the dynamic one swinging towards him. In fact, his horizontal positioning recalls the poses assumed by the mistresses painted by Boucher and Périn-Salbreux. 

In the years that followed, Fragonard made a habit of disappointing powerful patrons. Royal commissions, such as a ceiling painting for the Galerie d’Apollon at the Louvre or a pair of overdoors for the Château de Bellevue, were never completed.[49] Others saw completion, but were stylistically misjudged to a staggering degree. In April 1767 Fragonard was one of a select group of history painters commissioned to provide decorations for the Paris residence of Marc-René d’Argenson, marquis de Voyer (1722–82). In June 1769 the architect Charles de Wailly (1730–98) wrote to the patron: ‘you will perhaps not be as pleased with the ceiling of Fragonard as with that of [Louis-Jacques] Durameau which unites all the praise’.[50] This proved to be the case, for Fragonard’s depiction of a swarm of putti was painted over in July 1772, and replaced by Jean-Jacques Lagrenée (1739–1821) with the more impressive subject of Hebe pouring nectar for Jupiter (c.1772; Banque de France, Paris).[51] This pattern repeated itself when Madame du Barry (1743–93) commissioned a decorative ensemble for her pavilion at Louveciennes at the start of 1771 (Frick Collection, New York). After these hectic, colourful panels were mocked by the critics, they were returned to the artist in 1773 to be replaced by a sedate ensemble by Vien (1773–74; Préfecture de Chambéry, Savoy and Musée du Louvre, Paris). Technically experimental and visually powerful as Fragonard’s panels appear today, at the time they did not do what Madame du Barry needed. 

Could The swing too have constituted such an artistic miscalculation? In considering the possibility that the painting remained a secret because it failed to please the ‘man of the Court’, it is important to remember that at the moment of its making, Fragonard’s career was going through a challenging phase. Only two years earlier, he, not Doyen, had been ascendant in the art world. His enormous history painting Coresus sacrificing himself to save Callirhoe (Fig.20), submitted to the Académie royale in 1765 in partial fulfilment of membership requirements, had garnered applause ‘that had been rarely equalled’.[52] Fragonard was anointed successor to the recently deceased, much-respected Jean- Baptiste-Henri Deshays (1729–65), and given the latter’s studio in the Louvre.[53] When Coresus and Callirhoe was exhibited at the Salon it was universally acclaimed. 

Yet although the painting was acquired by the artist Charles-Nicolas Cochin II (1715–90) on behalf of the Crown in April 1765 as a model for a Gobelins tapestry, the purchase price – 2,400 livres – was approximately two-thirds of what other artists received for smaller, less-finished works. Cochin admitted to the marquis de Marigny, the arts administrator to Louis XV: ‘I’m taking advantage of the youth of M. Fragonard’.[54] It is not clear whether Fragonard was aware of this fact, but he was certainly conscious of the slowness of payment, delivered in irregular instalments between August 1765 and January 1773. The writer Louis-Sébastien Mercier (1740–1814) remarked: ‘He only began to make small paintings because of the disgust he felt about Callirhoe, whose feeble payment was delayed to the point that, while his painting was received to be executed as a tapestry at the Gobelins, the painter, for lack of payment, had to pawn his clothes’.[55] If poverty and exhaustion – following three years of hard work on Callirhoe – were to blame for a downturn in productivity between 1765 and 1767, Fragonard must have also found it galling when his submissions to the Salon of 1767 were dismissed as insufficiently ambitious by art critics.[56] Bachaumont suggested that Fragonard’s lowered output might be due to a love affair gone wrong, which led him to cite as a parallel Doyen’s supposed obsession with Mademoiselle Hus, as mentioned above.[57] 

Received shortly after the Salon closed, the commission for The swing probably threw fuel on the fire. Collé’s text makes clear that – at least in Doyen’s eyes – Fragonard was a second choice. It creates a subtle opposition between Fragonard and Doyen, describing how the former takes up a commission that the latter had refused on the grounds of taste. But Fragonard seems to have been clear about his own area of specialty, and it lay precisely in the territory proudly claimed by Doyen. Fragonard’s sensitivity to this issue was evident some years later, when he was approached by the Venetian actress Marie-Thérèse Colombe with a request to ‘faithfully render her features’, to which he answered dryly: ‘I am very sorry, Mademoiselle [. . .] but I only paint histories, of great subjects.’ [58] Could Fragonard have made such a protestation to the ‘man of the Court’? Although this cannot be known for certain, he certainly formulated The swing as if he were working in the grand genre

As French artists learned early in their training, history painting was distinguished from other art forms by its mastery of perspective, reliance on citation from established artistic sources, use of eloquent gesture and a clear central narrative intended to instruct the viewer. The receding landscape with a lake provides a sense of perspective in The swing, and the painting revolves around a central gesture. Citations from external sources are discernible not simply in the inclusion of Falconet’s Cupid, but in the Rubens-inspired embellishment Fragonard made to the pedestal. He had undertaken a careful first-hand study of Rubens’s paintings following the accepted process of training through examination of the great masters of previous generations. Together with Baudouin, Fragonard applied to study Rubens’s famed Marie de Médicis cycle in the Galerie du Luxembourg, a privilege that was accorded on the strength of the artists’ affiliation to the Académie royale. Their request was made on 20th October 1767 and granted in early November, so their visit must have taken place at the exact moment that Fragonard was painting The swing.[59] 

Finally, Fragonard seems to have placed on this work a signifier of his achievement. The painting bears a tiny mark in the lower left. This has been catalogued as a barely legible signature: ‘fr [. . .] rd’.[60] However, the scribble that appears in the photomicrograph taken in this area (Fig.21) is not long enough to spell out Fragonard’s full name. It does, however, appear to be a word, rather than an emblem. It is suggested here that it reads ‘FPinxit’ (‘F painted it’), an adaptation of a Latin term traditionally added to more ambitious paintings. 

When he began The swing in the late summer of 1767, Fragonard was undoubtedly nursing his grievances after a rocky Salon. This painting, the product of his wilful insistence on making something more than a frivolous morsel of erotica, perhaps attests to his wounds. Made by a peintre du roi with an attention to technique that showcases years of training, it is ripe with emotion and commentary on human interaction. Perhaps in bringing to bear the full force of his artistic prowess on The swing, Fragonard intended to let the academic art world know that he was capable of serious painting once again – or perhaps he simply could not help himself from pushing back. 

This naturally raises the question of Fragonard’s hopes for the future of The swing. Arguably, these are implied in the absence of the bishop. It has been suggested that the artist deviated from the original terms of the commission so as not to antagonise the powerful forces of the Catholic church.[61] But there would have been no reason for concern if he truly thought the painting would remain private. Only works of art that were exhibited publicly were subject to ecclesiastical sanction. Fragonard would have known this because his friend Baudouin ran into trouble twice in succession. In 1763 his painting of The catechism, in which a young priest looks longingly at a girl standing before a congregation, was withdrawn from the Salon at the request of the Archbishop of Paris. Two years later Baudouin exhibited The confessional, a scene showing an indignant priest emerging from a confession box outraged by what he has heard (Fig.22).[62] Outside the public sphere of the Salon exhibition, judgement tended to be withheld. For example, Baudouin’s incendiary Morning never appeared at the Salon, but it was engraved – without negative ramifications – by Emmanuel de Ghendt around 1778, as part of the Heures du jour series.[63] Fragonard clearly took the Salon seriously: in 1767, he removed from the exhibition two large, finished works. Their subjects are unknown but it was said that he feared they would be deemed inappropriate.[64] 

It is in this tension – between what the patron expected and the artist’s own plans – that we come closest to the likely reason why The swing was not mentioned for the first fifteen years of its existence. Its fate recalls that of Greuze’s portrait–genre hybrid The well-loved mother. At the Salon of 1769, the art critic and diplomat Friedrich Melchior, Baron von Grimm (1723–1807), provided details on the evolution of that composition: from anonymous celebration of the joys of family life to a vehicle for Laborde to show off his egalitarian values by placing himself and his wife in a humble domestic scene. Grimm’s account makes it clear that Greuze was none too pleased about having to make this transition: ‘the artist pretended to go along with [Laborde’s] fantasy, but he well knew not to ruin [the central] two figures by removing the poetry [with which they were endowed]’.[65] To make his feelings known, Greuze introduced into the final painting a sly parodic element: Laborde’s grandiose entrance is marred by the fact that his ‘privileged position between his wife’s legs [is] occupied by a visibly contented son’.[66] Unimpressed, Laborde evened the score by withholding the work from the Salon, although it was already listed in the livret of 1769, and was eagerly anticipated by Greuze’s many supporters.[67] The picture was never exhibited in public. 

In a similar vein, ‘the man of the Court’ may have taken one look at Fragonard’s provocative Swing and decided to put it to one side. Beautiful as it was, the painting was too rife with satire and melodrama to suit his needs. Fragonard’s experimental and erotic history painting went unseen. By the time the Salon of 1769 opened – without a single work by Fragonard – the artist and the institution had gone their separate ways.[68] Fragonard’s absence was mourned in terms that confirm a new direction – ‘today he is happy to shine in boudoirs and wardrobes’ – and he never again exhibited in the Salon.[69] 

‘The swing’ in 1782 

At some point, years after painting The swing, it seems that Fragonard obtained access to it again. This is suggested by physical evidence on the painting’s surface of additions made by a highly skilled hand after the original paint had dried.[70] Sprays of rich blue dots of paint are applied with a stippling brush over existing foliage throughout the lower-left corner (Fig.23). Close examination at magnification indicates that they comprise a stiff mixture of white lead and a blue pigment, certain rough grains of which are occasionally discernible. In some places this mixture drips and pools; in others the brush has produced fan-like patterns reminiscent of the original white touches of paint in the same area. Indigo in hue, these subtle touches of colour sparkle and pop against the original bluish-green paint that defines the foliage – and they serve a clear chromatic purpose. Soon after the painting had been finished, the organic yellows that Fragonard seems to have used to make his greens began to fade and change, leaving the blue pigments to revert to their original colour.[71] The dotted touches of rich blue layered over the faded greens would have the optical effect of making the greens appear more vibrant, effectively injecting new energy into the garden setting. 

It is not possible on the sole basis of technical evidence to date these painterly interventions. They were clearly added on top of original paint that was fully dry, but faint cracks run through some of these marks suggesting that they were not added much later than the original paint layer. Nor is it possible to attribute them with certainty to Fragonard, although they were evidently the product of a confident hand capable of emulating the idiosyncratic lifting motion of his brush, with its resulting grooves and patterning in the paint. However, two circumstantial considerations tend to suggest that he was responsible for them and that they date from the late 1770s or early 1780s. Around this time, Fragonard made a monumental canvas showing a party of elegantly dressed people disporting themselves on a tree-covered hill overlooking a mountainous vista (Fig.24).[72] This painting, in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, is also known as The swing because it shows a figural group clustered around a woman seated on a swinging contraption. The similarities between this woman and the central figure in the Wallace Collection painting are striking (Fig.26). Both wear billowing pink overdresses with elbow-length, lace trimmed sleeves, rose-trimmed pancake hats that cast shadows over the face, white stockings and neat pink mules. Both reach overhead in a steadying gesture, and are delicately adorned with blue flowers, pinned on the corset in the one case, held in the hand in the other. The two paintings share other elements, from the fraying ropes to the figures sprawled on the ground, arms extended as if to hail the swingers’ respective flights. The chromatic specificity with which key elements (blue flowers, pink overdress with its white trim) have migrated from one painting to the other is striking. At the same time, the figures in the Washington Swing have been reversed, resized, even reimagined. The man lying before the figure on the swing in the London picture has become a woman in the later canvas. The Washington Swing appears to revisit and rework an original concept in a new visual language. Another picture thought to be part of the same series, A game of hot cockles (La main chaude; National Gallery of Art, Washington) features Falconet’s silencing Cupid. It was the first time since The swing that Fragonard incorporated this statue into a composition, and he again embellished the pedestal with twisting, writhing figures. 

The second clue dates from April 1782, when Delaunay’s print after The swing was announced in the Mercure de France

A very agreeable, very striking and fresh print, after M. Fragonard, Painter to the King, of the Academy of Painting & Sculpture has just been published; it is entitled: les Hasards heureux de l’Escarpolette; it does honor to the burin of M. de Launay [sic], Engraver to the King, of the same Academy & Member of that of the Fine Arts of Danemarck [sic]; he dedicated it to M. Fragonard himself; it is art and talent paying homage to art and talent, uniquely made to appreciate each other reciprocally.[73] 

As the journal makes clear, the print was the initiative of Delaunay, in whose premises on the rue de la Bûcherie it was offered for sale.[74] The pointed dedication to Fragonard confirms that it had the artist’s support. The approbation of a third party is also implied. It would have been near impossible, even for the accomplished Delaunay, to recreate the simultaneous delicacy and lushness of a work of art as intricate as The swing without access to the original.[75] As the painting seems not to have been shown either in an exhibition or a public sale between 1767 and 1782, it follows that Delaunay had seen it in a private context, and with the consent of the painting’s owner. If the painting was becoming more accessible, it may have been at this point that the only known eighteenth-century copy was made (Musée Lambinet, Versailles). Although it differs faithfully in a manner that would not have been possible had the copyist been working after the engraving.[76] 

It is easy to understand why both Fragonard and Delaunay would have enthusiastically supported such a print project. The painter obviously invested significant energy into The swing, and probably always hoped that this visually powerful painting would find wider recognition. Delaunay, too, had good reasons for wishing to add to his growing repertoire a work as striking as The swing. By 1782, he already had two successful prints by Fragonard under his belt. L’Heureuse fécondité, after The happy family, had been exhibited at the Salon of 1777.[77] Two years later, Delaunay engraved La bonne mère (Fig.31) after The good mother, in which a mother and her three children play in a sun-dappled garden (Fig.25). Also in 1782, Delaunay announced the publication of Les beignets and Dîtes donc, s’il-vous-plaît (after Say please), both of which he showed at the Salon of 1783.[78] In other words, the engraver was establishing himself as the artist’s most successful interpreter.[79] 

It is interesting that the print of Les hazards heureux de l’escarpolette pointedly does not announce the name of the owner in the ‘letter’ contained in its lower register, as was generally the custom.[80] Instead, Delaunay included Fragonard. This may suggest that the latter had played a role in the making of the print. Such ‘letters’ were spaces in which a printmaker could pay public tribute to an individual who had proven himself useful or to whom he owned a debt. Delaunay may have used his ‘letter’ to thank the artist who had facilitated access to a prize work. 

How could Fragonard have gone about securing such access? He would presumably have had to encourage a cagey owner to see the painting in a less charged light. In the sense that prints offer a forum for tweaks to an existing composition, Delaunay’s Les hazards heureux provides a roadmap, a statement of intent. Small but important differences are evident between painting and print.[81] The simple pancake hat worn by the woman in The swing has been replaced in the print with a more dashing feathered confection that updates its style to the 1780s.[82] In the print, the features of the young man are more aquiline, making him appear older. Meanwhile, the face of the man operating the swing appears significantly younger than in the painting. Nor does the print show water flowing over the bench ready to drench this man’s hat, suggesting that in this medium he is no longer a figure of fun. The dynamics of the original painting have therefore been levelled to those of a standard love triangle, as in a painting such as The musical contest in which two lovers compete for the affections of the young woman in the centre (c.1754; Wallace Collection, London). 

These modifications transform The swing from an erotic confection into a less problematic genre scene. There is no technical evidence that any effort was made to alter the painting itself in any drastic or permanent way.[83] The print may, however, contain a further clue hinting at a coherent strategy for changing the perception of the picture. In its most finished form, Les hazards heureux bears a vignette made by Delaunay after a drawing by Pierre-Paul Choffard (1730–1809) in which a cupid uses a torch to emblazon Fragonard’s intertwined initials (‘FH’) onto an oval canvas against which lie a palette and several brushes. Beneath this pile of artist’s tools is the corner of a sheet of paper on which can be discerned the word ‘l’armoire’ (see Fig.1). Its inclusion in this vignette celebrating Fragonard would have been readily understandable to viewers in the eighteenth century because it is the title of an etching made by the artist himself in 1778 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). 

Choffard’s clever allusion to the etching L’armoire amplifies his allegorical portrait of Fragonard as a versatile artist, capable of handling an etching needle as easily as a brush. It also plays upon a strategy of pictorial matching with which Fragonard was actively engaged. L’armoire is based upon a comical drawing by Fragonard known as The wardrobe in which a would-be lover is wrested from his hiding place in a cupboard by the crying girl’s irate parents. This drawing was commonly paired with one of a more explicit flavour, showing a scene known as The bolt, in which a man and a woman are locked in a heated struggle (Figs.28 and 29). Versions of the two drawings, The wardrobe and The bolt, appeared together as pendants in auctions in 1777, 1784 and 1789.[84] Given the divergent nature of the two scenes, the logic of this surprising pairing resides in the works’ inherent differences. Showing the prelude to a sexual encounter, the violent Bolt takes place in a sophisticated city environment; its shamefaced aftermath, the playful Wardrobe, unfolds in a sweetly rural setting.[85] 

Thematic contrasts could clinch the success of pairings, as was asserted by Claude-Henri Watelet (1718–86): ‘Although the conformity of dimensions is the principle condition of pendants, it is also desirable that the compositions have some relationship, that they contrast together, that there is some conformity in colour and effect’.[86] It is not proven that Fragonard initiated the idea of the odd pairing of The bolt and The wardrobe, but he certainly gave it his implicit sanction in 1789 when he signed a certificate authenticating the paired works as being by his hand.[87] But by this time he had already taken his exploration of contrasting pendants a step further. In about 1778 he worked up The bolt as a painting (1778; Musée du Louvre, Paris) in response to the request by Louis-Gabriel Véri-Raionard, marquis de Véri (1722–85), who wanted a pair for the Adoration of the shepherds of 1775 or 1776 (Musée du Louvre, Paris). The shock value of a depiction of violent seduction, if not impending rape, alongside an ode to religious devotion was evident to contemporaries.[88] The inherent understanding that together they added up to a greater whole – a meditation on the contrast of spiritual and earthly love – went unquestioned at the sale of Véri’s collection, where the catalogue compiled by the expert Alexandre- Joseph Paillet (1743–1814) read: ‘there are very few people whom such paintings will not seduce, and who will not from them deduce a high opinion of the progress of our [national] School.’[89] 

Contrasting narratives could therefore act as a substitute for more traditional aspects of a pairing. Moreover, the match made between the Adoration of the shepherds and The bolt suggests that paintings did not need to be conceived simultaneously to be paired. The first picture was completed in about 1775; Véri solicited the second from the artist in about 1777.[90] Narrative also appears to have taken precedence over format: in 1781, two oval watercolours, The good mother (1779; Museum of Fine Arts, St Petersburg) and Rest on the flight into Egypt, were exhibited as pendants at the Salon de la Correspondence, presumably to illustrate different aspects of family life (Fig.27).[91] Whereas the watercolour version of The good mother relates to a painting that had only ever existed as an oval, the Rest on the flight into Egypt existed in three earlier painted version, two oval and one a large rectangular picture made for Saint-Nizier, Troyes, in the mid-1770s (Musée de l’art et archéologie, Troyes).[92] In fact, judging by the pairing of the Adoration and The bolt, both in the collection of the marquis de Véri, the only factors that seem to have equalled the power of narrative in drawing two pictures together were the links created by a shared physical space and a common owner. 

Where then, is the pair for The swing? The answer is provided by the printmaker. Like Fragonard, Delaunay exhibited a marked concern for the creation of pendant pairs or larger groupings as a commercial ploy ‘to create homogeneity within his entire oeuvre among works often produced many years apart’.[93] His tactic was to tease out the innate interconnections – based on similarities of content, author or formal style – among the compositions that he engraved. His organising principle came to the fore in a list he published in 1789 of thirty-four works produced from 1768 onwards.[94] Unusually, this presents a series of groupings and pairings rather than being structured by painter or format, as would be more standard. Formal groupings with shared framing devices – such as the lozenge-shaped surround that places his interpretation of Say please within a group of several scenes of family life by Fragonard, Jean-Baptiste Le Prince (1734–81) and Étienne Aubry (1745–81) – are denoted by brackets. Delaunay also made accommodation for loosely related pairs, such as Angelique et Médor after Jean Raoux (1677–1734), and Le chiffre d’amour after Fragonard.[95] Although different in size and including framing devices that reproduce stylistically distinct paintings, these prints are nonetheless bound together by subjectmatter. For this reason, they appear together at the end of Delaunay’s list.[96] 

Delaunay placed his print after The swing directly following his reproduction of The good mother, a positioning that suggests an intended relationship.[97] Formal considerations support this hypothesis.[98] The gardens in both compositions are remarkably similar, with their organising trellises, gnarled trees loaded with moss and blossoms, and toothy foliage. Evoking the dense texture of the compositions they reproduce, the two prints share intricate linework. Although the best-known impressions differ in format – like the painting it reproduces, Les hazards heureux de l’escarpolette is typically a rectangle, whereas La bonne mère is oval, after the oval-shaped Good mother – Delaunay made multiple states of Les hazards heureux. The final state of the print (see Fig.30) presents the image in an oval format similar in dimensions to La bonne mère.[99] When seen side by side, the thematic congruence of these two depictions – of romantic love and maternal love – rises to the fore. With Les hazards heureux on the left and La bonne mère on the right, the viewer might imagine the lady on the swing propelling herself out of a risqué present into a respectable future. Delaunay’s printed list of 1789 may therefore suggest visually what went unsaid in 1782. These two prints were never formally advertised as pendants, but similar numbers of both are listed in Delaunay’s posthumous sale in 1792, possibly a sign that the tacit pairing was accepted by customers since all of Delaunay’s prints were equally available for purchase on their own.[100] 

Beyond the print pairing, the paintings co-exist more tenuously. Even beyond the troublesome matter of format, the oval-shaped Good mother is noticeably smaller than the rectangular Swing. The former is also thought to post-date the latter, by up to a decade. To a certain extent, this lag makes itself felt visually. Although the two works possess similar aesthetic qualities, with great attention paid to capturing the detail and texture of their respective garden settings, the extreme tightness and finesse of Fragonard’s stippling brushwork in The swing had become visibly mellowed and softened by the time of The good mother. The palettes too are different. Even when the greens in The swing were fresh, they probably would have been dominated by cooler, bluish tonalities. Meanwhile, The good mother privileges clear, yellowy greens. This is perhaps where the blue additions discussed above offered an attractive solution. Although these painterly tweaks were probably intended to correct the fading of the yellow pigment, they would also have made The swing a better pair in colouristic terms to The good mother. They were an expeditious route toward tying the two compositions together. 

By the time The swing came back onto Fragonard’s radar in the early 1780s, it was a thing of his past. The evolution of his artistic style is notoriously difficult to chart since over the course of his career he veered with ease between the much looser, quicker, more gestural style of the so-called fantasy figures and the soft-focused polish of The bolt.[101] Yet he never quite returned to the tight, exceptionally detailed, carefully plotted manner of painting so abundantly on offer in The swing, making it unique in his oeuvre. Here, perhaps, is where The good mother is especially relevant. Although later, smaller and differently shaped, its subject-matter is perfect for balancing and containing the sensual charge of the The swing, and its painterly vernacular is similar enough to render the pendants visually plausible. Relying on such a pairing would have absolved Fragonard from the trouble of having to produce an entirely new painting to hang alongside The swing. This would, of course, have been an especially neat solution if the two paintings shared another common element: an owner. It is not impossible that the paintings were in the same collection in 1782. It is in any case a fact that by 1794 the paintings shared a gallery and belonged to the same collection, that of François-Marie Ménage de Pressigny (1734–94). 

If the argument is accepted that The swing emerged from a period of tension and conflict for Fragonard, and that the painting took on the weight of the artist’s high ambitions in the process, it would for that reason always have fallen short of the patron’s expectations. Its origins are similar to those of The progress of love panels, painted over the course of an intense year during which Fragonard worked on nothing else, only for the series to be rejected. This much is well known, but it is what happened next that is of key relevance to this argument. Fragonard kept The progress of love paintings rolled up in his Louvre studio until early 1790, when he brought them, or arranged to have them transported, to his home city of Grasse, where he unfurled them and began work afresh.[102] The result was ten new paintings, one of which adds a new dimension to the tone of the series as a whole. Rendered in autumnal tones, Reverie shows a female figure alone, seated dejectedly at the base of a statue of Cupid and gazing wistfully into the distance (1790–9; Frick Collection, New York). It imparts a grounding note of humanity and melancholy in a way that brings the hectic, highly colourful series out of the high Rococo moment of their creation and into a new era. 

The well-documented history of the Frick paintings tells us something about an artist who did not give up on his original concept but reshaped its narrative in a way that gave it new relevance. It seems possible that Fragonard took a similar attitude to The swing, a brilliant, but difficult painting of his youth that he met again in middle age. He found a creative way to sever it from the fraught circumstances of its inception and to give it a new lease on life. This was Fragonard’s last act of responsibility toward his experimental painting. the ‘man of the court’ Following Fragonard’s probable reappearance in the story of the painting, a third party took (or took back) control of its destiny. Because there is no evidence that The swing had changed hands prior to 1782, this individual could well be the original patron, the ‘man of the Court.’ But in this case, his relationship to The swing would have been inherently complicated by the fact that the painting probably contained his (comically-inflected) portrait. It follows that Fragonard’s strategic intervention would have been intended to show this patron how to see The swing in a less personal light, as well as in a less erotic one. 

Only four names have been advanced as possible contenders for this role. In 1860 The swing was lent by Charles, duc de Morny, to an exhibition of privately owned works of French eighteenth-century art. It was catalogued by Philippe Burty as follows: ‘The swing. Sale of the baron de Saint-Julien. Engraved by Delaunay, of the brilliant burin’.[103] In 1889, Roger Portalis connected Burty’s ‘baron de Saint-Julien’ with the owner of two other works by Fragonard, both scenes of play in a garden setting: 

It is for the baron de Saint-Julien that Fragonard had made the Colin-Maillard and the Balançoire, two of the decorative paintings in which he staged children with such verve and colour. It is for this art lover, it is said, that was made the famous Swing. At any rate, it appears in his catalogue in 1788.[104] 

Portalis identifies the baron de Saint-Julien as the art critic Baillet de Saint- Julien, who, as has been mentioned, owned Boucher’s Woman urinating. He was also the owner of Fragonard’s Le Colin-maillard (Blindman’s buff; c.1750–52; Toledo Museum of Art) and Le Balançoire (The see-saw; Fig.33), which both appeared in Saint-Julien’s sale of 21st June 1784 under lot 75.[105] 

This identification comes up short on two counts. Portalis’s reference to ‘[Baillet de Saint-Julien’s] catalogue of 1788’ is erroneous: Saint-Julien organised sales of his collection on 21st June 1784 and 14th February 1785, but not in 1788.[106] Moreover, it is possible that Burty and Portalis were misled by a simple semantic confusion. No work corresponding to the description of The swing nor any mention of the word ‘escarpolette’ appears in the catalogue of either sale. However, the term ‘balançoire’– which does make an appearance in the 1784 sale catalogue thanks to The see-saw – may also function as a synonym for ‘escarpolette’. The former word is specifically used in conjunction with The swing in, for example, the description of the painting in the catalogue of the Morny sale of 1865, in which the young woman is described as sitting on a ‘balançoire’.[107] It is therefore possible that Burty and Portalis may have wishfully confused The swing, which did not feature in any Saint-Julien sale, with Le balançoire, which was sold in 1784. This much was, in fact, stated by the collector Pierre Defer in 1868.[108] 

Nonetheless, the association between The swing and a ‘Saint-Julien’ endured. When opinion moved away from Baillet de Saint-Julien, another similarly named individual surfaced: François-David Bollioud, seigneur de Saint-Jullien (1713–88), who in 1739 was appointed to the powerful role of Receveur du clergé de France (tax collector from the French clergy).[109] Although there is no indication that Bollioud de Saint-Jullien had a deep interest in French painting, let alone a specific connection to Fragonard, his longstanding professional association with the First Estate could have fostered a humorous desire to see a bishop painted into an erotic fantasy, and he remained, therefore, a plausible candidate for the patron of The swing.[110] However, new research conclusively demonstrates that The swing was not among Bollioud de Saint-Jullien’s many possessions at the time of his death.[111] Similarly, the intriguing recent hypothesis that the patron of The swing was Bollioud de Saint-Jullien’s only son, Jean-Victor (1749–81), is undermined by the fact that the painting does not appear in his postmortem inventory of 1781, now located for the first time in the course of the current research project; it mentions jewels, books and clothing, but nothing in the way of fine arts.[112] 

On 6th November 1794 the document was drawn up that – at last – places the painting in a physical location.[113] Its owner, François-Marie Ménage de Pressigny, had been guillotined in Paris earlier that year alongside the chemist Antoine Lavoisier (1743–94) and twenty-six other members of the uniquely unpopular syndicate known as tax farmers.[114] The contents of Ménage de Pressigny’s residence in the rue des Jeûneurs, Paris, were placed under seal, and his possessions confiscated by the Revolutionary government. In the careful inventory of his property made in this context ‘a Game of the Swing by Fragonard’ is listed in a salon overlooking a garden.[115] Five other paintings by Fragonard adorned the same space: two fanciful representations of urchin children, two jaunty Cupids and, as has been mentioned, ‘la Bonne Mère par Fragonard’, or The good mother.[116] 

This inventory establishes Ménage de Pressigny as not only the first known owner of The swing but also the only collector to be firmly associated with the picture at any point during the eighteenth century. At present he is the fourth candidate for Doyen’s patron, although he has historically tended to be overlooked, presumably on the grounds that his status as a tax farmer rooted in the cut and thrust of the French world of affairs disqualified him from being a courtier, or ‘man of the Court’. Nonetheless, a close examination of Ménage de Pressigny reveals several circumstantial points that argue in his favour. The bulging chin, strong jawline, heavy eyebrows and dark eyes depicted in his portrait of an unknown date (Fig.32) are all strikingly paralleled in the features of the young lover in The swing (see Fig.3). Ménage de Pressigny had ample means to fund the extravagant lifestyle of the ‘man of the Court.’ He was exceptionally wealthy, with a personal fortune – comprising real-estate investments in addition to his Paris home and several thousand livres worth of furniture – that in 1793 totalled over a million livres. This affluence enabled him to take advantage of the outbreak of the Revolution to add to his portfolio with the acquisition of several nationalised properties in Normandy.[117] 

The fact remains that Ménage de Pressigny, with his origins in the financial sector, was not ‘of the Court’ in the strict sense of the term. But he certainly possessed the social wherewithal to dazzle the likes of Collé, or rather Doyen, into favouring him with the more general meaning attributed to the term, that of superior gentleman. Born on 29th January 1734, he was the son of Alexis-Emmanuel Ménage de Pressigny (1699–1763) whose own glittering career included his purchase in 1758 of the office of Secrétaire du Roi de la Grande Chancellerie de France which conferred nobility not only on the holder but on his descendants.[118] Alexis-Emmauel’s brother, François-Joseph Ménage de Mondésir, held this same office from 1735, and by mid-century had blended in with the higher ranks of nobility so successfully that in 1749 his daughter Françoise-Élisabeth-Éléanore married a soldier from a family of the noblesse d’épée that traced its lineage back to the fourteenth century.[119] When the latter’s niece Antoinette-Louise Millet married the Marquis de Moustier, a soldier and diplomat, in 1777, numerous dignitaries signed the contract, including Louis XVI.[120] And when Ménage de Pressigny’s own daughter Flore (1771–1841) married Claude-François- Marie Rigoley d’Ogny in 1786, the signatories of the wedding contract included the king once again, alongside Marie-Antoinette.[121] 

There is a final argument in favour of Ménage de Presigny. As discussed above, it is now clear that assigning the role of ‘man of the Court’ to anyone requires some plausible explanation for the reason why this individual might have commissioned a painting and then suppressed it for a number of years. Furthermore, it has been suggested here that it was the act of pairing The swing with a sunny representation of wholesome maternity that convinced the owner to introduce it to the world. This sequence of events suggests that we should be looking for a patron who was initially discomfited by the free-flying, visually dominant feminine presence at the heart of The swing, and whose reservations dissipated when that same femininity was brought firmly back to earth. Ménage de Pressigny fits this bill perfectly. 

On 7th March 1767, at the age of thirty-three, he purchased the stately hôtel particulier on the rue des Jeûneurs that would remain his residence until 1794.[122] This significant acquisition, on the part of a young man then four years into his professional role, suggests an intention to project burgeoning prosperity and respectability, a wish that culminated with his marriage to Louise-Georgette-Rosalie Lefebvre (b.1742), called Rosalie, in 1769. However, new research has uncovered a concurrent series of events that threatened to destabilise Ménage de Pressigny’s well-laid plans. At the very beginning of 1769, a twenty-two-year-old woman named Marie- Françoise Anne Innocenty (1746–1824) filed the police report that is reproduced in full in Appendix 2. Summarising Innocenty’s own words, this extraordinary document details the story of her seduction by Ménage de Pressigny, whom she met in March 1768 when she came to him regarding a job advertised by one of his colleagues (‘un emploi dépendant d’un des Messieurs les fermiers généraux’). Over the subsequent weeks, he mounted a persistent suit including vows of love, promises of security and bribes, such as a series of letters to Innocenty’s mother offering her the second apartment in his mansion in the rue des Jeûneurs. The document describes how, after she fell pregnant, he engineered her precipitate departure from her brother’s home and her enforced confinement with an assumed identity under the medical care of Charles Geille de Saint-Léger (d.1792). It also tracks her state of mind, from trust in his intentions to growing anger in the face of his callous insistence that the child be given up to the Hôpital des enfants trouvés, notorious for its incidence of infant mortality. A second report, filed on 15th April 1769, confirms the birth on 7th February of their son, who was placed with a wet-nurse. It also confirms that Ménage de Pressigny had continued to push his ‘ghastly plan’ (‘le deseins affreux’) to institutionalise the child, in what the document describes as a shocking display of ‘villainy and cruelty’ (‘La Vilainie et La Cruauté’) towards both the infant and the abandoned mother (see Appendix 3). 

Innocenty’s determined pursuit of justice clearly bore results because by 1st August 1769, the case was settled before the notary Antoine Touvenot, who drew up two documents. The first is a ‘Désistement de plainte’ in which it is agreed that Innocenty was to drop her suit and turn over the compromising letters in return for which she should be furnished with ‘damages that she could or believed she could expect due to the reasons explained in the complaints that she made before Maître Chenu Commissaire or others’, in the amount of 6,000 livres.[123] Further financial terms are laid out in the accompanying ‘Constitution’, a document that seems intended to cover up Ménage de Pressigny’s gift by laying out the terms of a ‘rente viagère’ or a lifetime annuity. Innocenty’s ‘investment’ of the 6,000 livres was, according to the terms of this agreement, to produce an annuity of 600 livres every six months – a phenomenally generous return of twenty per cent.[124] The documents therefore create a plausible fiction, presenting Ménage de Pressigny’s settlement as a legitimate financial and legally enforceable agreement. It seems clear that the baby boy had died by this time as neither document contains any mention of nor provision for him.[125] 

As the document reproduced in Appendix 2 makes clear, the initial encounter between Innocenty and Ménage de Pressigny occurred some six months after the incident reported by Collé, which tends to exclude the possibility that she is the woman depicted in The swing. However, the circumstances that Innocenty describes suggest that Ménage de Pressigny’s behaviour was unlikely to have been confined to this one instance. His familiarity with Geille de Saint-Léger – a noted specialist in venereal disease who had himself been the subject of a police investigation in 1759 for carrying on an affair with a female courtesan while maintaining designs on her young daughter – is significant.[126] Moreover, Innocenty’s case probably went as far as it did only thanks to her solid, middle-class connections. Her father, Dominique-François (d.1781), was Régisseur général des droits du Roi, that is a collector of royal duties, and her brother Pierre- François (c.1740–1803) was Contrôleur des droits ambulants pour la Lorraine et le Barrois, or travelling comptroller of taxes in those regions.[127] The degree of understanding, education and confidence that she would have possessed as a result of her upbringing equipped her to navigate a legal system that was intimidating or hostile to others in the same situation. Because she took it upon herself to file detailed complaints, a record survived. This is important because for his part Ménage de Pressigny clearly took steps to eradicate all evidence of the affair. The choice of Touvenot as notary is likely to be significant in this regard: he was Ménage de Pressigny’s great uncle and could have helped to keep the settlement proceedings discreet.[128] The eighteen letters that Innocenty held as evidence were duly handed back to Ménage de Pressigny, who must have destroyed them. There is certainly no trace of them in any of his papers inventoried in 1796,[129] nor is there any evidence of the notarial proceedings in his surviving documents, although they contain records of various financial agreements made during the same period.[130] 

The context provided by Innocenty may offer a new way of understanding the curious circumstances surrounding Ménage de Pressigny’s marriage to Rosalie Lefebvre, the daughter of a city official from Amiens.[131] For a man so socially connected as Ménage de Pressigny the match is surprising – Rosalie’s background was not much more elevated than that of Innocenty – and indeed, he does not appear to have been keen to sign a marriage contract. Remarkably, no fewer than two separate draft contracts were drawn up by Touvenot, and then discarded, before the third and final one was finally agreed on 5th February 1769.[132] In the first draft, dated 20th December 1768 and signed by Ménage de Pressigny, Rosalie, and her mother, Rosalie-Valentine Gallois Lefebvre, the prospective bridegroom bestowed a diamond on his betrothed along with a life annuity of 20,000 livres.[133] It is here that things seem to take a complicated turn, for by the time of the second draft, signed by the same three witnesses on 2nd February 1769, Ménage de Pressigny had withdrawn a portion of his offer, leaving his bride with a settlement of only 12,000 livres.[134] This figure was retained in the third draft, executed on 5th February. Postponed and evidently renegotiated twice, the marriage was concluded in the total absence of witnesses, whereas Ménage de Pressigny’s wealth would have normally seen a list of the great and good similar to those of Flore’s wedding contract, presided over by royalty. The impression is of a match that at least one of the perspective spouses entered into half-heartedly, and only after protracted discussions. One can only wonder whether this was because they had already consummated their union. It is worth noting that their connection may have originated with the latter’s professional colleague and – until 1767 – neighbour, Pierre-Jacques-Onézime Bergeret, whose powerful uncle Nicolas-Joseph Bergeret de Grandcourt was Contrôleur des Fermes du Roi in Amiens.[135] In this capacity, the latter would certainly have come into contact with Rosalie’s grandfather Charles Gallois, holder of the respectable post of Directeur général des Domaines du Roi in the same city.[136] This could then constitute another instance of Ménage de Pressigny’s predatory behaviour toward socially inferior women in his professional sphere. 

In fact, there is a curiously personal precedent for his droit du seigneur conduct. In 1749, the fifteen-year-old Ménage de Pressigny had a front row seat on the aggressive pursuit of his aforementioned cousin Françoise-Élisabeth-Éléanore by the powerful prince du sang Charles de Bourbon-Condé, Comte de Charolais, whose techniques of seduction encompassed passionate avowals but also threats and blackmail. Society was fixated on this affair – not least because Charolais was well-known for having kidnapped and imprisoned his previous mistress – which could well have been for Ménage de Pressigny a formative event in shaping a markedly hierarchical concept of how to treat women.[137] 

A hard-nosed adversary – in 1770 he contested the legality of his mother’s will, which had been made when she was blind on the grounds that she could not have seen what she was writing – Ménage de Pressigny evidently brought these same skills to the discussions leading up to his marriage.[138] However, for reasons unknown, he seems to have been in a position where he too was obliged to make certain concessions to his new bride and her family. In early January 1769 Geneviève Crispiel and Marie-Marguerite Lepreux moved out of their lodging in his rue des Jeûneurs mansion, possibly from the apartments that he had once offered Innocenty’s family.[139] Although nothing in the notarial act documenting their move seems untowards, the fact that their departure occurred between the dates of the first and second draft marriage contracts may suggest that their presence in his household had attracted a certain degree of scrutiny.[140] In 1776 Ménage de Pressigny settled money on his mother-in-law and sister-in-law as a ‘continued token of his affection’.[141] This wording – and the fact that his wife is mentioned nowhere in the document – suggests that the sum was made over because she had just died. Here again may be evidence of an agreement that had been put into place at the time of the marriage. 

Rosalie, who was confirmed deceased in 1786, appears nowhere in the archives after this 1776 document.[142] Her disappearance from the record seems to coincide with a significant increase in Ménage de Pressigny’s engagement with the fine arts. Most of the identifiable paintings listed in Ménage de Pressigny’s inventory date from the mid-1770s, if not later, which coincides with a moment when he publicly courted publicity as a patron of the arts.[143] In 1778 Delaunay published a print, Le billet doux (Fig.34), which bore a dedication to Ménage de Pressigny and a line identifying him as the owner of the original gouache, by Nicolas Lavreince (1737–1807). The following year, Delaunay’s print after The good mother, in which Ménage de Pressigny was similarly named as both dedicatee of the print and owner of the painting, was exhibited at the Salon.[144] In the same period Ménage de Pressigny’s name appeared prominently on two carved panels by Aubert- Henri-Joseph Parent (1753–1835), each bearing the words ‘Dédié à Monsieur Ménage de Pressigny / Amateur des Sciences et Beaux-Arts’ in gold letters on the ebonised frame (1779; private collection).[145] Medallions depicting Louis XIV and Henri IV on the panels themselves reference Ménage de Pressigny’s good relations to the monarchy, while the inclusion of symbols of the arts and the Enlightenment – volumes by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Alexander Pope, a portrait bust and an oil painting – hint at his desire to be seen as a modern Maecenas. 

In the following decade Ménage de Pressigny’s ambition for a public role in the arts continued to blossom. In 1789 he lent a painting from his collection to the Salon.[146] His involvement in the early 1780s in a major building project on the rue Caumartin led by the architect André Aubert was probably conceived as a financial investment but it resulted in a major urban alteration to Paris’s 9th arrondissement.[147] Another transformative municipal project was his commission of a statue of Henri IV. It was originally destined for Pau, but Ménage de Pressigny was eventually prevailed upon by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos – his wife’s cousin – to gift the work to La Rochelle.[148] 

This might suggest that his wife’s death left Ménage de Pressigny free to explore his interest in the arts. His possession of such works as Lavreince’s gallant parlour scene – in which a handsome young man hands a letter to a young woman unbeknown to her chaperone – suggests moreover a taste for flirtatious subject-matter that was nipped in the bud by the cloud of scandal hanging over him in the late 1760s. If this is the case, Rosalie’s death would have also left him free to revisit The swing, and to consider ways to integrate this indiscreet but important painting with the rest of his collection. 

It cannot be proven that Ménage de Pressigny was the ‘man of the Court’. But it is certain that what emerges from this exploration of the skeletons in his closet is a starkly unflattering portrait of the one man who is known to have owned The swing in the eighteenth century.[149] What lay ahead for Ménage de Pressigny was the guillotine. What lay ahead for the woman on the swing was little better, if Innocenty’s story can be taken as a paradigmatic example of the fate shared by women vulnerable to sexual exploitation during this period. She went on to sign a marriage contract with a military officer, Jacques-Anne Duplessier (1708–72), on 19th November 1771.[150] The presence of her father and brother at this occasion suggests that any fallout from the affair with Ménage de Pressigny had been erased by the respectability of marriage. However, the union itself is likely to have been one of convenience because Duplessier was a widower in his sixties, who died the following year. After some time spent outside Paris – a period during which she lodged a complaint against one François Auclerc for verbal abuse[151] – Innocenty remarried a foundry worker named Gabriel- Jean-Baptiste-Louis Lesueur (d.1840) on 9th November 1795.[152] In 1809 the two of them launched legal proceedings against relatives of the deceased Duplessier for having cut her out of a portion of her rightful inheritance.[153] The pursuit of this claim suggests that her financial situation by this point was precarious, and she ultimately descended into abject poverty. On her death on 2nd April 1824, a certificate of indigence was filed in lieu of estate paperwork.[154] This background surely lends just as much texture to The swing as the presence of the sculpture in the undergrowth, or the high hopes of the ambitious artist who rendered his magnificent work so complex. 

The author is grateful to Xavier Bray for his support of this project and to the Bank of America Art Conservation Program, which provided significant funding for its realisation. This article benefitted from the expertise of Neil Jeffares, Ashok Roy and Martin Wyld, whose brilliant conservation treatment gave this picture new life. The author is also grateful for engaging discussions of Fragonard with colleagues at the Wallace Collection and elsewhere, especially Emma Barker, Lucy Davis, Guillaume Faroult, Suzanne Higgott, Helen Jacobsen, Alastair Laing, Richard Mansell-Jones, Satish Padiyar, Nicole Ryder, Susan Siegfried, Élodie Vaysse, Christoph Vogtherr, Rollo Whately, Catherine Yass and Félix Zorzo. Marika Knowles’s invitation to present some of this research as the speaker for the 2023 French Visual Culture Seminar at the University of St Andrews offered an invaluable opportunity to think through certain nuances of the argument. Warm thanks go to Christopher Apostle, Joseph Baillio, Catherine Baradel-Vallet, Xavier de Caumont La Force, Calvine Harvey, Bernard Jazzar, Patrice Marandel and George Wachter for their help with myriad questions. Christopher Apostle and Calvine Harvey facilitated the author's first-hand examination of The good mother in 2022, which was revelatory. Finally, the anonymous reader made invaluable suggestions that clarified the argument. All the French quoted in this article has been modernised with the exception of the unpublished archival material transcribed from the manuscripts reproduced in Appendices 2 and 3 and cited in the text. All translations are by the author. 

[1] For the original text, see Appendix 1. 

[2] Archives de la Bastille, Paris, MS 10252, feuillets 140–47, ‘État des petites maisons situées aux environs de Paris avec les noms des propriétaires et de ceux qui les occupent’, cited in C. Ollagnier: Petites maisons: Du refuge libertin au pavillon d’habitation en Île-de-France au siècle des Lumières, Paris 2016, pp.33–55, at p.42. This police document lists fortytwo petites maisons in July 1752. 

[3] G.-F. Coyer: Découverte de la Pierre Philosophale, L’année merveilleuse avec un supplément, Paris 1748, p.9. 

[4] G. Faroult: L’Amour peintre: L’imagerie érotique en France au XVIIIe siècle, Paris 2020, p.335. See also C. Cusset: No Tomorrow: The Ethics of Pleasure in the French Enlightenment, Charlottesville and London 1999, p.2. 

[5] C.-P. de Crébillon: Le Hasard du coin de feu: Dialogue moral [1763], Paris 1881, pp.59–60 and 72–73. See also T. Kavanagh: Esthetics of the Moment: Literature and Art in the French Enlightenment, Philadelphia 1996, p.23. 

[6] Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, Département des Manuscrits, NAF 28604, ‘Fonds Casanova. Giacomo Girolamo Casanova. Mémoires de ma vie, Manuscrit autographe’, III, fol.23v. 

[7] J. Ingamells: The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Pictures: (French before 1815), London 1989, III, pp.161– 65, no.P430. 

[8] See, in particular, D. Posner: ‘The swinging women of Watteau and Fragonard’, Art Bulletin 64, no.1 (March 1982), pp.75–88; and J. Milam: ‘Playful constructions and Fragonard’s swinging scenes’, Eighteenth-Century Studies 33 (2000), pp.543–59. 

[9] See the conversation series Swing Time: Serendipitous Conversations about the Rococo, organised by the present author in November– December 2021, available at www. swing/swing-time-talk-series/, accessed 20th March 2024. The author is grateful to all of the participants in this series, from whom she learned much. 

[10] D. Quéro: ‘Les manuscrits de théâtre de Collé: vers un état présent’, in M.-E. Plagnol-Diéval and D. Quéro, eds: Charles Collé: Au coeur de la République des Lettres, Rennes 2019, pp.89–117, at p.89. 

[11] A. Barbier: Journal historique ou Mémoires critiques et littéraires, sur les ouvrages dramatiques et sur les événements les plus mémorables, depuis 1748 jusqu’en 1772, inclusivement, par Charles Collé [. . .], Paris 1807, III, p.345. Barbier’s omission may also reflect Fragonard’s reduced standing in the art world in the aftermath of the Revolution. 

[12] ‘Du reste, nous nous sommes abstenu de recueillir certaines crudités obscènes qui doivent rester à l’état d’incognito dans le manuscrit de Collé’, H. Bonhomme: ‘Introduction’, in C. Collé: Journal et mémoires de Charles Collé [. . .] Nouvelle édition augmentée de fragments inédits recueillis dans le manuscrit de la Bibliothèque impériale du Louvre [. . .], ed. H. Bonhomme, Paris 1868, I, 

[13] This is clearly stated in P. Richelet: Dictionnaire de la Langue Françoise Ancienne et Moderne, Amsterdam 1732 (3rd edn 1680), I, p.429: ‘un homme de la Cour peut être un homme de bien & homme d’honneur’. See also C. Duclos: Considérations sur les moeurs de ce siècle, Paris 1772 (6th edn 1751), pp.169–70. 

[14] On Collé’s usage of the phrase, see, for example, C. Collé: Correspondance inédite, faisant suite à son journal, accompagnée de fragments également inédits de ses oeuvres posthumes, ed. H. Bonhomme, Paris 1864, pp.79 and 431. On Doyen’s clientele, see the ‘Répertoire analytique’ in M. Sandoz: Gabriel-François Doyen, 1726–1806, Paris 1975, pp.25–27. 

[15] Helen Jacobsen, verbal communication, August 2021. 

[16] This closely resembles fountains in paintings by Hubert Robert (1733– 1808), such as The fountain (c.1775–78; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth). 

[17] ‘Vandières à Natoire. À Versailles, le 19 février 1753’, ‘J’ai un cabinet particulier que j’ai voulu enrichir de quatre morceaux de quatre plus habiles peintres de notre École. [. . .] Je dois ajouter encore que, comme ce cabinet est fort petit et fort chaud, je n’y ai voulu que des nudités: le tableau [. . .] de Boucher [montre] une Jeune femme couchée sur le ventre’, A. de Montaiglon and J. Guiffrey, eds: Correspondance des directeurs de l’Académie de France à Rome avec les surintendants des Bâtiments, Paris 1887–1912, X, pp.438–39, entry no.4944. 

[18] F. Basan and F.-Ch. Joullain: Catalogue des différents objets de curiosités dans les sciences et arts qui composaient le Cabinet de feu M. le marquis de Ménars [Marigny], Paris 1782, lot 23: ‘Une femme nue, & couchée sur un sofa avec de gros oreillers d’étoffe de soie. Ce sujet est connu par l’Estampe qu’en a gravé Demarteau’. 

[19] J.-B.-P. Le Brun: Catalogue d’une belle collection de tableaux des écoles d’Italie de Flandres, de Hollande et de France [. . .] vente du 21 juin 1784, Paris 1784, lot 67: ‘Deux Tableaux faisant pendants, de forme ovale en hauteur. Ils représentent deux femmes à leur toilette [. . .] ceux deux compositions [. . .] faisaient partie de la collection de M. Randon de Boisset’. It is not generally known that Woman urinating is the second, undescribed picture in this lot, and the present author is grateful to Alastair Laing for bringing this point to her attention in an email (17th June 2023). 

[20] Many of the important private collections were documented by Luc- Vincent Thiéry, author of a series of guides to Paris, first published in 1783. 

[21] Sandoz, op. cit. (note 14), pp.36–40, no.28. 

[22] ‘M. Doyen, devenu amoureux de Mlle Hus, de la Comédie Françoise, avait été longtemps sans rien faire’, L.P. de Bachaumont: ‘Lettre I. Paris, le 6 septembre 1767’, in Lettres sur les peintures, sculptures et gravures de Mrs. de l’Académie royale exposées au Salon du Louvre, depuis 1767 jusqu’en 1779 [. . .], London 1780, pp.7–17, at p.16, note 2. Without mentioning Bachaumont’s comment, Sandoz confirms a lapse in productivity between 1763 and 1766, see Sandoz, op. cit. (note 14), p.14. 

[23] A detailed, albeit biased, account of the clergy’s libertine behaviour is provided by J.-A. Dulaure: Vie privée des ecclésiastiques, prélats, et autres fonctionnaires publics, qui n’ont point prêté leur Serment sur la Constitution civile du Clergé, Paris 1791. This critique of the clergy was also part of a literary tradition, as evinced by Denis Diderot’s novel Les bijoux indiscrets, first published anonymously in 1748. 

[24] For a memoir of growing up in this unconventional household, see L. de La Tour du Pin: Journal d’une femme de cinquante ans, publ. par son arrière petit-fils le colonel comte Aymar de Liedekerke-Beaufort, Paris 1913, I, p.3. 

[25] M.-F. Pidansat de Mairobert: L’Observateur anglais ou Correspondance secrète entre Milord All’Eye et Milord All’Ear, Paris 1777–78, II, p.200. On Jarente, see P. Ballu: ‘Louis-Sextius de Jarente de La Bruyère, un évêque très politique’, Bulletin de la Société Archéologique et Historique de l’Orléanais. Nouvelle série 18, no.145 (July 2005), pp.5–31, at p.21. 

[26] See E. de Goncourt: La Guimard: d’après les registres des menus plaisirs de la bibliothèque de l’Opéra, Paris 1893, p.67. 

[27] Baudouin’s libertine illustrations gained popularity from 1765. See G. Faroult, ed.: exh. cat. Fragonard amoureux, Paris (Musée du Luxembourg) 2015–16, pp.124–42, nos.30, 31, 32, 35 and 37. 

[28] Faroult, op. cit. (note 27), pp.172–75, no.56. 

[29] Milam, op. cit. (note 8), pp.544–55. 

[30] Madame de Pompadour, who commissioned the 1757 marble, came to own at least three versions of the statue. One was in her Paris hôtel, now the palais de l’Élysée (c.1757; Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. noRF 296). The version illustrated here, now in the Rijksmuseum (inv. no.BK-1963-101), was destined for the Château de Bellevue. A third model in terracotta is now untraced. See the entry by G. Sherf in M.-N. Pinot de Villechenon, ed.: exh. cat. Falconet à Sèvres, ou l’art de plaire (1757–1766), Sèvres (Musée national de céramique), 2001–02, pp.91–92, at p.92, no.5. 

[31] It is also interesting to note that the girl in Le balançoire (The see-saw) makes a similar gesture to that of her counterpart in The swing, but significantly her smallest finger is not raised. See Fig.33. 

[32] This painting was described in the livret for the Salon of 1757 (no.113) as ‘Une Jeune italienne congédiant (avec le Geste Napolitain) un Cavalier Portugais travesti’. 

[33] The painting is signed and dated ‘Greuze f. Roma 1757’. Fragonard remained in Rome until 1761. 

[34] For a detailed analysis of this painting, see R. Rosenblum: Transformations in Late Eighteenth- Century Art, Princeton 1967, pp.3–8. 

[35] ‘C’est dommage que cette composition soit un peu déparée par un geste indécent de ce petit Amour papillon que l’esclave tient par les ailes; il a la main droite appuyée au pli de son bras gauche qui, en se relevant, indique d’une manière très-significative la mesure du plaisir qu’il promet’, entry by D. Diderot in J. Seznec and J. Adhémar, eds: Salons, Oxford 1957– 83, I, p.210. 

[36] P. Guiraud: Dictionnaire historique, stylistique, rhétorique, étymologique de la literature érotique, Paris 1978, p.539. The connection between object and word in relation to a different painting by Fragonard was first made in M. Sheriff: Fragonard: Art and Eroticism, Chicago and London 1990, p.109. 

[37] G. Faroult: L’Odalisque brune, Paris 2019, p.44. This identification was nuanced by Alastair Laing, who nonetheless concluded that the picture could have been painted to ‘whet the king’s appetite’ for a prospective lover, see the entry by A. Laing in idem, J. Patrice Marandel and P. Rosenberg: exh. cat. François Boucher, New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Detroit (Detroit Institute of Arts) and Paris (Réunion des musées nationaux, Grand Palais) 1986–87, pp.258–63, at p.265, no.61. 

[38] Now in a private collection, this painting is illustrated in O. Blanc: Portraits de femmes, artistes et modèles au temps de Marie-Antoinette, Paris 2006, p.331, fig.688. On Duthé’s supposed liaison with Dillon, see also p.326. An oval portrait by Fragonard in the Museo Nacional Thyssen- Bornemisza, Madrid (c.1770–72; inv. no.CTB.1930.24), has been called a portrait of Duthé but the identification is considered unconvincing. 

[39] On the trend for inserting portraits into genre settings, see P. Bordes: ‘Portraiture in the mode of genre: a social interpretation’, in P. Conisbee, ed.: French Genre Painting in the Eighteenth Century, Washington 2007, pp.257–73. [40] The drawing that was shown at the Salon in 1765 has not been located. See E. Munhall: exh. cat. Greuze the Draftsman, New York (Frick Collection) 2001, p.202. 

[41] This assessment of Boucher was made by Madame de Pompadour herself. See Correspondance de Madame de Pompadour [. . .] publié pour la première fois par M.A.P.-Malassis, Paris 1878, p.55: ‘on les a trouvés très-joli mais peu ressemblans [sic]’. [42] This elderly figure has been considered a husband or an ‘obscure accomplice’. For the former, see Posner, op. cit. (note 8), p.84; for the latter, see J. Starobinski: The Invention of Liberty, 1700–1789, transl. B.C. Swift, Geneva 1964, p.76. 

[43] The present author is grateful to Félix Zorzo for this observation. 

[44] On contemporary interpretations of this painting, see the entry by R. Rand in idem, ed.: exh. cat. Intimate Encounters: Love and Domesticity in Eighteenth- Century France, Hanover (Hood Museum of Art) 1997, pp.147–48, no.26. [45] This is noteworthy because realism was a quality that the sculptor had worked to promote. See, for example, Mercure de France (May 1761), p.117: ‘Les Ouvrages de M. Falconet, portent particulièrement ce caractère d’expression, qui anime & qui fait parler la Sculpture. [. . .] Un seul Amour placé dans les Jardins de l’Hôtel de Pompadour à Paris, peut être regardé comme un phénomène en cette partie’. [46] F. Scholten: L’Amour Menaçant or Menacing Love, Amsterdam 2010, p.44. Fragonard may have studied the Amsterdam version, which after 1764 was in the collection of Boucher’s friend and patron Pierre-Louis-Paul Randon de Boisset. See also the entry by Pinot de Villechenon in idem, op. cit. (note 30), p.160, no.91a. 

[47] H. Nieuwdorp, ed.: exh. cat. Rubens Cantoor een verzmameling tekeningen ontstaan in Rubens’ atelier, Antwerp (Rubenshuis) 1993, pp.168–73, at. pp.169 and 172; the present author thanks Gerlinde Gruber for this reference. 

[48] ‘On the superficiality of such a person, see D. Diderot [?]: ‘Petitmaître’, in idem and J. le Rond d’Alembert: Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, etc., Neufchâtel 1751–72, XII, p.465. 

[49] On the Galerie d’Apollon project, see C.B. Bailey: Fragonard’s Progress of Love at the Frick Collection, New York 2011, pp.36 and 165, note 26. For the overdoors for Bellevue, see P. Rosenberg, ed.: exh. cat. Fragonard, Paris (Galeries nationales du Grand Palais) and New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art) 1987–88, pp.227, 300 and 302. 

[50] ‘vous ne serez peut estre pas aussy content du plafons de Fragonard que de celui de Durameau qui réuni tous les sufrages’, Bibliothèque Universitaire, Poitiers, AA, P 172/fol.6, letter from Charles de Wailly to Marc-René d’Argenson, 5th June 1767, cited in Rosenberg, op. cit. (note 49), p.228, where the text is reproduced in its original spelling. 

[51] Fragonard’s lost ceiling decoration possibly resembles the Group of putti (c.1767; Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. no.RF 1949 2), an easel painting that Diderot likened to a ‘belle et grande omlette d’enfants’, Diderot, op. cit. (note 35), III, p.279. 

[52] See A. de Montaiglon and J. Guiffrey, eds: Correspondance des directeurs de l’Académie de France à Rome avec les surintendants des Bâtiments, Paris 1887–1912, XII, pp.76– 77, ‘5839. Marigny à Natoire, 16 avril 1765’, at p.77, ‘un applaussement dont il y a peu d’exemple’. 

[53] On Fragonard’s potential to make up for the loss of Deshays, see ibid. On the allocation of the studio, see M. Furcy-Raynaud: Correspondance de M. de Marigny avec Coypel, Lépicié et Cochin. (Special issue of Nouvelles archives de l’art français), Troisième série XX (1904), pp.11–12, ‘454. Cochin à Marigny. 1er avril 1765’. 

[54] Ibid., p.28: ‘472. Cochin à Marigny. 8 août 1765’, ‘J’use un peu de la jeunesse de M. Fragonard’. According to Cochin, an appropriate purchase price for artists of more senior standing was 3,600 livres. 

[55] ‘Il ne s’est mis à faire de petits tableaux que par les dégoûts qu’il essuya sur celui de Callirhoé; dont on retarda le chétif payement, au point que, tandis que son tableau était reçu pour être exécuté en tapisserie aux Gobelins, le peintre, faute d’en être payé, avait ses habits engagés’, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Paris, MSS 15083, fols.2–3; and L.S. Mercier: Articles et fragments relatifs aux Beaux-arts, transcribed in M.A. Dupuy-Vachey, exh. cat.: Fragonard, Paris (Musée Jacquemart-André) 2007–08, p.20. 

[56] His submissions (nos.137–39 in the Salon livret) were the easel painting mentioned above (see note 51), an unidentified ‘Tête de Vieillard. Tableau de forme ronde’, discussed in Rosenberg, op. cit. (note 49), p.202, and several drawings. 

[57] Bachaumont, op. cit. (note 22). 

[58] ‘De Paris, le 25 avril 1781. [Mlle Colombe] demande un habile peintre: on lui indique M. Fragonard. Elle y court & le prie de rendre fidèlement ses traits. “Je suis bien fâché, Mademoiselle”, lui dit l’artiste, “mais je ne peins que des histoires, de grands sujets. – Eh bien, Monsieur, commençons toujours: quelqu’autre fera le reste”’, Correspondance secrète, politique et littéraire, ou Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire des Cours, des Sociétés & de la Littérature en France, depuis la mort de Louis XV, London 1787–90, XI, p.221– 22. If a painting resulted from this encounter, it has not been located. 

[59] Rosenberg, op. cit. (note 49), pp.227–28. 

[60] P. Rosenberg: Tout l’oeuvre peint de Fragonard, Paris 1989, no.177; and Ingamells, op. cit. (note 7), p.161. 

[61] Faroult, op. cit. (note 27), p.132 deems this a decision made ‘prudently.’ 

[62] On the relevant event at the Salon of 1763, see Intermédiaire des Chercheurs et Curieux, 6e année, no.125 (25th March 1870), p.177, and no.132 (10th July 1870), p.399. On the Salon of 1765, see Diderot, op. cit. (note 35), II, p.33. 

[63] The catechism and The confessional were also engraved in 1777 by Moitte. See Fig.22. 

[64] ‘Suite des observations sur les tableaux, sculpture, & gravure, exposés au salon du Louvre, le 25 août 1767’, Mercure de France, dédié au Roi (October 1767), II, p.171, ‘On nous assure que sa délicatesse trop scrupuleuse lui a fait enlever du salon deux grands tableaux prêts à être mis en place’. Given that he had submitted them in the first place, it may be that the objections came from the tapissier who was then Chardin. 

[65] Grimm’s commentary is published in D. Diderot: Salons IV: Héros et martyrs (Salons de 1769, 1771, 1775, 1781, Paris 1995, p.116, note 246: ‘l’artiste fit semblant de se prêter à cette fantaisie, mais il n’eut garde de gâter ses deux figures en leur ôtant leur poésie’. 

[66] Bordes, op. cit. (note 39), p.264. See also M. Ledbury: Sedaine, Greuze, and the Boundaries of Genre, Oxford 2000, p.165. 

[67] It was listed as no.152 in the livret. 

[68] For example, he made arrangements to go abroad without seeking permission from the Académie, as was normally required of all members. See Archives nationales de France Paris (hereafter Arch. Nat.), AP2, fols.246–47, letter from Jean- Baptiste-Marie Pierre to Fragonard, 4th October 1773, cited in Rosenberg, op. cit. (note 49), p.302. 

[69] ‘il se contente de briller aujourd’hui dans les boudoirs & dans les garderobes’, L. Petit de Bachaumont, M.-F. Pidansat de Mairobert and B.-F.-J. Mouffle d’Angerville: Mémoires secrets pour server à l’histoire de la République des lettres en France [. . .], London 1783–89, XIII, p.33. 

[70] These additions elicited much interest during the conservation treatment, and the present author is indebted to Ashok Roy and Martin Wyld, who spent time looking at this area of the painting under magnification and discussing possibilities with her. 

[71] Wallace Collection, London, object file, inv. no.P430, S. Amato and A. Burnstock: ‘Report of a technical examination of CIA2766. 4th August 2021’. The presence of these faded ‘yellow lake’ pigments is inferred on the basis of elemental mapping that indicated the presence of calcium (Ca) and aluminium (Al) in the areas of foliage suggesting that either a Cacontaining substrate for faded yellow lake or an Al-containing substrate for the same yellow lake was used. The report adds: ‘The presence of a translucent yellow mixed with Prussian blue in two samples taken from areas of original foliage [. . .] suggest that yellow lake was used for the foliage’. For the phenomenon of fading greens in eighteenth-century French painting, see Y. Jackall et al.: ‘Greuze’s greens: ephemeral colours, classical ambitions’, THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE 165 (2023), pp.268–79. 

[72] This painting is associated with Blindman’s bluff, a work of almost identical dimensions, also in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Both are currently dated c.1775/80: see the entry by R. Rand in P. Conisbee, ed.: French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century: National Gallery of Art, Washington, Washington 2009, pp.189– 201, at p.199, no.41. A later date is possible because their vaporous brushwork and restrained compositions recall Fragonard’s brown wash drawings of the late 1770s and early 1780s. See the entries by K. Brosnan in P. Stein, ed.: exh. cat. Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant, New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art) 2016, pp.262–64, nos.97–98, both dated to 1775–85. 

[73] ‘On vient de publier une estampe très agréable, très piquante & trèsfraîche, d’après M. Fragonard, Peintre du Roi, de l’Académie de Peinture & de Sculpture; elle est intitulée: “les Hasards heureux de l’Escarpolette”; elle fait honneur au burin de M. de Launay, Graveur de Roi, de la même Académie, & Membre de celle des Beaux-Arts de Danemarck [sic]; il l’a dédiée à M. Fragonard lui-même; c’est l’art & le talent qui rendent leur hommage à l’art & au talent, seuls faits pour s’apprécier, réciproquement’, Mercure de France (2nd April 1782), p.35. 

[74] The print was also advertised in the Gazette de France (2nd April 1782), p.130; the Journal de la Librairie, ou Catalogue Hebdomadaire (6th April 1782); and Annonces, affiches et avis divers, ou Journal général de France 99 (9th April 1782), p.839, all of which confirm that it was put on sale by Delaunay. 

[75] Delaunay had first-hand access to other works by Fragonard on which he worked. For example, he owned the paintings that formed the basis of Le petit prédicateur (untraced) and L’Éducation fait tout (Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo). See J. Folliot and F. Delalande: Catalogue de tableaux, Gouaches, Dessins & Estampes encadrés & en feuilles [. . .] Provenant du cabinet de feu M. Delaunay, Graveur du Roi [. . .], Paris 1792, p.7, no.5. On Delaunay, see M. Hébert and Y. Sjöberg: Inventaire du fonds français, graveurs du XVIIIe siècle, Paris 1973, XII, pp.463–553, at pp.509–10, 521, and 528–32. 

[76] The present author is grateful to Émilie Maisonneuve for facilitating her first-hand examination of this painting in June 2021. 

[77] L’Heureuse fécondité is after one of several versions of The happy family (c.1775; National Gallery of Art, Washington, and elsewhere). On the inherent difficulties of differentiating between the versions, see the entry by R. Rand in Conisbee, op. cit. (note 72), pp.176–81, at p.178, no.36. 

[78] Les Beignets is after the drawing Making fritters (c.1782; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles); Dîtes donc, s’il-vous-plaît is after the painting Say please (c.1770s; Wallace Collection, London). 

[79] S.J. Taylor: ‘Pendants and commercial ploys: formal and informal relationships in the work of Nicolas Delaunay’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 50 (1987), pp.509–38, at p.510. 

[80] On the practice of the ‘letter’ in prints, see A. Sanciaud-Azanza: ‘Le texte au service de l’image dans l’estampe volante du XVIIIe siècle’, Bibliothèque de l’École de chartres 158, no.1 (January–June 2000), pp.129–50, at pp.131–33. 

[81] See R. Portalis: Honoré Fragonard: Sa vie, son oeuvre, Paris 1889, p.58, note 1, for a suggestion that the differences are a result of the print being after the ‘très bonne repetition de l’Escarpolette’ that he saw with the baron Edmond de Rothschild. Unfortunately, this painting has never been published and has not been possible to locate. 

[82] See for example, Marie-Antoinette, by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun. c.1783. (National Gallery of Art, Washington). 

[83] Scraping dry original paint off the surface would have risked damage. Aside from the spray of blue dots, The swing shows none of the signs of a second artist campaign such as that investigated in Y. Jackall, J.K. Delaney and M. Swicklik: ‘“Portrait of a woman with a book”: a “newly discovered fantasy figure” by Fragonard at the National Gallery of Art, Washington’, THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE 157 (2015), pp.248–54. 

[84] See Faroult, op. cit. (note 27), p.212– 13, no.73. On the multiple versions of the two drawings, see Rosenberg, op. cit. (note 49), pp.481–84, no.236 (The bolt) and pp.486–87, no.238 (The warbrobe). On the practice of mixing and matching pairs, see C.B. Bailey: ‘Conventions of the eighteenth-century cabinet de tableaux: Blondel d’Azincourt’s “La première idée de la curiosité”’, Art Bulletin 69 (1987), pp.431–47, at p.440. 

[85] Faroult, op. cit. (note 27), p.212. 

[86] ‘Quoique la conformité de dimensions soit la principale condition des pendants on désire aussi que les compositions aient quelque rapport entre elles, qu’elles contrastent ensemble, qu’il y ait quelque conformité dans la couleur & dans l’effet’, C.-H. Watelet and M. Levesque: Dictionnaire des Arts de Peinture, Sculpture et Gravure [. . .], Paris 1792, V, p.2. 

[87] Rosenberg, op. cit. (note 49), p.481, fig.2. 25. The good mother, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. c.1773–79. Oil on canvas, 49 by 39 cm. (Private collection; Bridgeman Images). 

[88] See in particular the account given by Fragonard’s first biographer: A. Lenoir: entry on ‘Fragonard’ in Dictionnaire universelle ancienne et moderne, Paris 1816, XV, pp.420–21. 

[89] ‘il doit être bien peu de personnes que de pareils Tableaux ne séduisent, & qui n’en conçoivent une grande idée des progress de notre École’, A.-J. Paillet: Catalogue des tableaux des trois écoles, miniatures, bronzes, marbres et autres objets précieux du cabinet de feu M. le Marquis de Véri, Paris 1785, pp.25–27, at p.27, nos.36–37. See also Rosenberg, op. cit. (note 49), p.484. 

[90] It is thought that the composition that inspired The bolt was formulated in the late 1760s. See P. Rosenberg and I. Compin: ‘Quatre nouveaux Fragonard au Louvre: II’, La Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 4–5 (1974), pp.263–78. 

[91] These works, too, seem to have been made at different dates. There is no mention of the watercolour of the Rest on the flight into Egypt prior to the Salon de la Correspondance of 1781, whereas the watercolour of The good mother is documented on its own, in the sale of the architect Louis-Francois Trouard in 1779. See Rosenberg, op. cit. (note 49), pp.337, no.160 (The good mother), and pp.469–70, no.229 (Rest on the flight into Egypt). 

[92] The oval compositions are c.1750 (Baltimore Museum of Art); and c.1774 (Barker Welfare Foundation, on loan to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven). The latter painting is catalogued in Rosenberg, op. cit. (note 49), pp.467–68, no.228, which also contains information on the related works. 

[93] Taylor, op. cit. (note 79), p.510. 

[94] N. Daunay: Note des estampes qui se trouvent chez Mr. De Launay, Graveur du Roi, de l’Académie Royale de Peinture et sculpture, Paris 1789. 

[95] Raoux’s original is today untraced; Le chiffre d’amour is after the painting The souvenir (c.1776; Wallace Collection, London). 

[96] Taylor, op. cit. (note 79), p.534. 

[97] These works were made in close chronological proximity but not in direct succession. They were separated in time by Le billet doux, which is paired in the list with Qu’en dit l’Abbé of 1788, both after Nicolas Lavreince. For Le billet doux, see Fig.34. 

[98] The image sizes of the two prints are nearly identical: 56.2 by 42.5 centimetres for La bonne mère and 51.2 by 42.1 centimetres for Les hazards heureux de l’escarpolette. 

[99] There is disagreement over whether the oval format represents the fifth and final state, Portalis, op. cit. (note 81), p.328, no.102, or the sixth and final state, R. Neville: French Prints of the Eighteenth Century, London 1908, p.141. 

[100] Folliot and Delalande, op. cit. (note 75) p.46, nos.281–82. 170 impressions remained of La bonne mère, 191 of Les hazards heureux de l’escarpolette. In contrast, in 1791 Delaunay was left with 389 impressions of Le petit prédicateur and only 54 of its pair, L’Éducation fait tout. Taylor, op. cit. (note 79), pp.533–34, notes that it was a mark of the commerciality of the pairing if the numbers left in stock for a print were roughly congruent to those of its pair. 

[101] On the astounding breadth and variety of Fragonard’s artistic production, see J.-P. Cuzin, exh. cat. Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806): Orígenes e influencias. De Rembrandt al siglo XXI, Barcelona (CaixaForum Centro Social y Cultural) 2006, p.197. On the fantasy figures, see Y. Jackall, exh. cat. Fragonard: The Fantasy Figures, Washington (National Gallery of Art) 2017. 

[102] X.F. Salomon: ‘Fragonard’s “Progress of love”’, in idem and A. Hollinghurst: Fragonard’s Progress of Love, New York 2022, pp.21–98, at p.78. 

[103] ‘L’Escarpolette. Vente du baron de Saint-Julien. Gravé par Delaunay, du burin le plus brillant’, P. Burty: Tableaux et dessins de l’école française, principalement du XVIIIe siècle, tirées de collections d’amateurs et exposés au profit de la caisse de secours des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs, architectes et dessinateurs, Paris 1860 (2nd edn), p.32, no.131. The Saint-Julien provenance was repeated in the posthumous inventory of Morny’s collection of 21st March 1865, Inventaire après le décès du duc de Morny, Étude de Mes[sieurs] Asso[ciés], Bertin, Boudry, 15 boulevard Poissonnière, 75002 Paris, France (LV M[aîtr]e Dufour), no.103, transcribed and published in the Getty Provenance Index, available at starweb/pi/servlet.starweb, accessed 27th February 2023. The swing was subsequently purchased by the 4th Marquess of Hertford. 

[104] ‘C’est pour le baron de Saint-Julien que Fragonard avait exécuté le “Colin- Maillard” et la “Balançoire”, deux de ces tableaux décoratifs où il mettait en scène des enfants avec tant de verve et de couleur. C’est pour cet amateur, dit-on, que fut faite la fameuse Escarpolette. Elle figure du moins dans son catalogue, en 1788’, Portalis, op. cit. (note 81), p.62. 

[105] Le Brun, op. cit. (note 12), lot 19: ‘Deux tableaux faisant pendant; l’un représente un jeu de colin-maillard; composition de quatre figures; l’autre offre l’amusement de la balançoire avec même nombre de figures. Ces deux charmans [sic] tableaux sont gravés par M. Bauvarlet [sic]. Haut. 79 pouc. larg. 34. T’. 

[106] Ingamells, op. cit. (note 7), p.164. 

[107] ‘“L’Escarpolette”. Dans l’intérieur d’un parc enrichi de statues, une jeune femme assise sur une balançoire fixée à une branche d’arbre’, F. Laneuville et. al.: Catalogue des tableaux anciens et modernes, objets d’art & de curiosité composant les collections de feu M. le duc de Morny, dont la vente aura lieu le mercredi 31 mai et jours suivants, Paris 1865, lot 98. 

[108] P. Defer: Catalogue général des ventes publiques de tableaux et estampes depuis 1737 [. . .] Paris 1868, p.191, note 4: ‘Le catalogue dit que ce tableau [The swing] vient de la collection du baron de Saint-Julien. C’est une erreur; celui qui est décrit dans le catalogue de cette vente, faite par Le Brun, en 1784, sous le titre de: la Balançoire, en pendant au jeu de Colin- Maillard, était beaucoup plus grand’. Defer’s paragraph was quoted in its entirety in G. Bourcard: ‘Sans titre’, Journal des Artistes 37 (25th September 1892), p.288. 

[109] This identification seems to have originated with L. Réau: Fragonard: Sa vie et son oeuvre, Brussels and Paris, 1956, p.69. It was subsequently embraced by Posner, op. cit. (note 8), p.84; J.-P. Cuzin: Fragonard: Vie et oeuvre, Fribourg and Paris 1987, p.97; and Rosenberg, op. cit. (note 49), p.226. The name ‘Saint-Jullien’ is commonly spelled with one ‘l’; the spelling that Bollioud de Saint-Jullien himself employed in signing legal documents is used here. 

[110] A mediocre ensemble of easel paintings was inventoried in the hôtel de Saint-Jullien in 1788 with the help of the expert Alexandre-Joseph Paillet. These included anonymous copies after Titian’s Danae and Cupid and Paolo Veronese’s The wedding at Cana, five family portraits and two landscapes by Jean Hacelin. See Arch. nat., MC/ET/ XXIX/583, ‘Inventaire après décès Bollioud St Julien [sic]. 20 octobre 1788’. 

[111] Document cited at note 110 above. 

[112] This hypothesis is advanced by C. Baradel-Vallet: ‘Le mystérieux commanditaire de ‘L’escarpolette’ de Fragonard’, Société Historique et Touristique de la région de Fontaine- Française Terroir 163 (1er semestre 2022), pp.7–19. For the inventory, see Arch. nat., MC/ET/LV/43, ‘Inventaire de M. Bollioud de St Jullien fils. 14 novembre 1781’. 

[113] This document is conserved with Flore Ménage de Pressigny’s papers, Arch. nat., MC/DC/XLII/46, ‘Inventaire de Ménage Pressigny ex-fermier général rue des Jeuneurs section de Brutus. Fait le 16 brumaire an 3 [6 November 1794]’. 

[114] This syndicate paid a fixed amount to the Crown for the right to collect certain taxes or excise duties, for example on commodities such as salt. These they then collected from the public with a notoriously heavy mark-up, which accounted for the farmers’ unpopularity. 

[115] Document cited at note 113 above: ‘9. Un autre représentant un Jeu d’Escarpolette par Fragonard hauteur trente pouces sur vingt quatre de large sur toile prisé et estimé quatre cent livres’. 

[116] Document cited at note 113 above, no.16 (probably Portland Art Museum; inv. nos. 54.21 and 54.22), no.23 (La bonne mère) and no.26 (for these compositions, see National Gallery of Art, Washington, inv. nos.1970.17.111 and 1970.17.112). La bonne mère, listed as no.23, is described as follows: ‘Un autre représentant la Bonne Mère par Fragonard hauteur de dix-sept pouces et demi largeur treize pouces oval sur toile prisé six cent livres’. 

[117] See T. Claeys: Dictionnaire biographique des financiers au XVIIIe siècle, Paris 2009 (2nd edn), II, p.397. 

[118] His mother was Marie-Claire Louise Lemercier de Senlis. He was baptised the day he was born at the Église St Nicolas. See Archives municipales de Nantes, collection départementale, registres paroissiaux de Saint-Nicolas, baptêmes, AD 44 3E109/126–1734, vue 7/57, available at ad44/visualiseur/registre. html?id=440204630, accessed 21st March 2024. This document was located by Neil Jeffares. 

[119] The family’s genealogy is given by Neil Jeffares, available at www., accessed 9th April 2024. 

[120] N. Viton de Saint-Allais: Nobiliaire universel de France, ou Recueil général des genealogies historiques des maisons nobles de ce royaume, Paris 1782–1878, IX, p.86. 

[121] Arch. nat., MC/ET/XXI/536, ‘Mariage, Claude François Rigoley d’Ogny & Françoise Louise Flore Menage de Pressingy. 19 février 1786’. The groom’s father had held several powerful political positions, culminating in that of Intendant général des Postes in 1787. 

[122] The purchase act was referenced in Flore’s death inventory, classmark cited at note 113 above, ‘Inventaire après le décès relié de Françoise Louise Flore Ménage de Pressigny. 5 avril 1841’. 

[123] ‘tous de dommagements qu’elle pouvoit ou croiroit pouvoir pretender d’après les motifs portés dans les plaints par elle rendues devant Maitre Chenu Commissaire ou autres’, Arch. nat., MC/ET/XXXVI/528, ‘Desistement de plainte. Innocenti, De Pressigny. 1er aout 1769’. 

[124] Arch. nat., MC/ET/XXXVI/528, ‘Constitution. 1er aoust 1769’. 

[125] There is no record of a child having been admitted to the Hôpital des enfants trouvés in 1769 under the name of either parent. He may have been left anonymously or by a third party. For the high mortality rates at this institution, see N. Senior: ‘Aspects of infant feeding in eighteenth-century France’, Eighteenth-Century Studies 16 (1983), pp.367–88, at p.371. 

[126] ‘Rapports de police sous Louis XV’, in Revue anecdotique des excentricités contemporaines: Deuxième semestre. Nouvelle série, Paris 1860, II, pp.181–85. 

[127] See also Almanach Royal, Paris 1779, p.485bis, where Dominique- François Innocenty was listed as representing Lorraine, Metz, Alsace, Franche-Comté and Champagne. His death in 1781 is mentioned in Journal de Paris, no.136 (16th May 1781), p.552. 

[128] The grandfather of Antoine Touvenot (c.1722–c.1772) was Charles Touvenot (before 1660–1721). His sister, Françoise-Andrée (c.1660–1756), married Jean Ménage (c.1655–1717). One of her three children was Alexis- Emmanuel Ménage de Pressigny, father of François-Marie. 

[129] Arch. nat., T//1647, Papiers d’origine privée, VII, ‘Condamné François Marie Ménage de Pressigny, ci-devant fermier général. État des titres et pieces dépendans de la succession de François Marie Menage de Pressigny, ci devant fermiergénéral, condamné par le Tribunal revolutionnaire avec confiscation de ses biens, et au profit de la Nation’, and ‘Inventaire de François Marie Ménage de Pressigny, cond[am]né et mort par La Loy, qui demeuroit Rue des Jeuneurs, Section de Brutus’. 

[130] Document cited at note 129 above, ‘Inventaire’. 

[131] Georges Lefebvre was échevin and syndic of the Chambre de Commerce, Amiens. 

[132] Arch. nat., MC/ET/XXXVI/527, ‘Mariage. 5 fevrier 1769. M. Menage de Pressigny avec Mlle Lefebvre’. 

[133] Arch. nat., MC/ET/XXXVI/526, ‘Mariage. 20 Xbre 1768’. This may be the jewel referenced in the document catalogued in L. Maître: Inventaire sommaire des archives de la Loireinférieure (Loire-Atlantique), Nantes 1879, III, pp.299–300: ‘l’acquisition d’un diamant par François-Marie Ménage de Pressigny, écuyer, l’un des fermiers-généraux du roi’. Thanks are extended to Neil Jeffares, who located this reference. 

[134] Arch. nat., MC/ET/XXXVI/527, ‘Mariage. 2 février 1769’. 

[135] Ménage de Pressigny is listed as living in the ‘rue du Temple, vis-à-vis la rue Portefoin’ in the Almanach Royal, published in Paris, in 1765 (p.408), 1766 (p.410) and 1767 (p.417). Bergeret lived at the ‘rue du Temple, au coin du Boulevard’ during these same dates; see for example Almanach Royal, 1767, p.436. Bergeret’s father, Bergeret de Frouville, who was a Secrétaire du Roi and tax farmer, lived in the same part of the rue du Temple as Ménage de Pressigny (Almanach Royal, 1758, p.167). For reasons not elucidated in his text, Georges Grappe suggests that Bergeret, who was a notable art collector with close ties to Fragonard, was responsible for introducing the artist to Ménage de Pressigny: G. Grappe: Fragonard: la vie et l’oeuvre, Paris 1946, p.67. 

[136] Gallois’s death on 11th July 1779 is reported, with a short biography, in the Journal historique et politique des principaux événements des différentes Cours de l’Europe (June–July 1779), p.141. 

[137] See R.-L. de Voyer de Paulmy: Journal et Mémoires du Marquis d’Argenson, ed. E.-J.-B. Rathery, Paris 1864, VI, pp.70–71 (entry for November 1749); and É.-J.-F. Barbier: Chronique de la régence et du règne de Louis XV (1718–63), Paris 1857–66, IV, p.399–401. 

[138] Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Joly de Fleury 594: Le Gouvé: ‘Mémoire pour le sieur Garnier, exécuteur testamentaire de la dame Menage de Pressigny, contre François-Marie Menage de Pressigny, fermier général; Messire Guillaume-Robert Lechevalier de Greges, ancien Président de la Cour des Aides de Normandie, & Dame Marie-Louise Menage de Pressigny, son épouse, Appellans d’une Sentence du Châtelet, Paris 1770. 

[139] Arch. nat., MC/ET/XXXVI/527, ‘Constitution par M. Depressigny aux Delles Crispiel et Lepreux. 2 Janvier 1769’. The two women made placements with Ménage de Pressigny in the amounts of 9,000 livres (Crispiel) and 4,000 livres (Lepreux). The document draws up the terms of this placement and lists the furniture that the two lodgers had brought with them. 

[140] Ménage de Pressigny and other members of his family (although not Rosalie Lefebvre) were witnesses of the marriage contract of Geneviève Crispiel and François Marion, as was Marie-Marguerite Lepreux, suggesting a continued friendship. See Arch. nat., MC/ET/XXI/451, ‘Mariage. 16 juillet 1769’. 

[141] Arch. nat., Registre des insinuations du Châtelet de Paris, Y446, ‘Donation. De Pressigny Le Febvre. 7 septembre 1776’. 

[142] Little is known of Rosalie following the birth of her two children in 1770 and 1771. Flore’s baptismal certificate refers to both parents as living. Rosalie is listed as deceased in the contract drawn up for Flore’s wedding in 1786. Document cited at note 121 above, MC/ET/XXI/536. However, she is likely to have died before 1776, the year in which Ménage de Pressigny settled money on her mother and sister, with no mention of her. 

[143] This is the case for the remainder of his works by Fragonard, see note 116. The two works now in the Portland Art Museum are dated c.1780, and the compositions Love as Folly and Love the Sentinel are generally dated c.1773–76. This also seems to be the general rule for other works with which he is associated. His gouache by Lavreince probably dates to c.1778, when it was engraved by Delaunay. The identifiable works listed in the inventory (see document cited at note 113) also tend to be on the later side. For example, Ménage de Pressigny’s genre scene by Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié (no.15) probably corresponds to Le vieux mendiant et l’enfant, which was signed and dated 1774, Sale, Christie’s, Paris, Tableaux anciens et du 19ème siècle, 26th June 2008, lot 54. His Vénus et l’amour en répos by Louis Lagrenée (no.24) was signed and dated 1770. Painted for Jean-Antoine Vassal de Saint-Hubert, the work was sold at auction in Paris in 1783, when it presumably passed into Ménage de Pressigny’s hands, see J. Assémat- Tessandier: Louis Lagrenée, 1725– 1805, Paris 2022, p.302, no.575P. 

[144] It was listed in the Salon livret as no.288. 

[145] Sale, Sotheby’s, London, Treasures, 7th December 2021, lot 24. 

[146] Depicting Venus presenting her son to Calypso, this painting by Jean- François Hue was listed in the Salon livret (no.71) as coming from Ménage de Pressigny’s collection. It appeared at auction in Sale, Hôtel des Ventes, Nantes, Vente judiciare de tableaux, 14th June 2022, lot 8. 

[147] Claeys, op. cit. (note 117), p.397, note 5. 

[148] É. Dard: Le général Choderlos de Laclos: auteur des Liaisons dangereuses, 1741–1803, Paris 1905, pp.105–06. 

[149] Secondary sources attributed to Ménage de Pressigny a petite maison and a libertine lifestyle, but for the wrong reasons. See, for example, G. Capon: Les Petites maisons galantes de Paris au XVIIIe siècle d’après des documents inédits et des rapports de Police, Paris 1902, p.99. Close analysis of the police records shows that the individual under discussion in those contexts is a different person altogether: Jean-François-Louis Masson de Pressigny (1735–81). 

[150] Arch. nat., MC/ET/XLVIII/193, ‘Mariage. 19 Novembre 1771’. 

[151] A full description of this complaint, which the present author has not yet been able to consult, is made in H. Boyer and Dauvois: Inventaire sommaire des archives départementales antérieures à 1790, Bourges 1885, II, p.59. 

[152] Archives de Paris, AD75 V10E8, Table des mariages parisiens, 1793–1802’. 

[153] Précis pour De Innocenty, Ve de Jacques-Anne Duplessier de Certemont, et actuellement épouse du Sr Lesueur, demandeurs; contre 1 ° le Sr Desfossez, fils et héritier d’Anne Duplessier; 2 ° Charlotte-Alexandrine Duplessier, épouse du Sr de Laforelle, fille et unique héritière de Charles-Alexandre Duplessier; 3 ° Les Dlles Duplessier de Fonchette, l’une épouse du Sr d’Hébrart, défendeurs, Paris 1809. 

[154] Archives de Paris, Tables de successions, DQ8 (Paris, France). 

[155] Bonhomme’s punctuation is reproduced here exactly.