Jean-Honoré Fragonard: The Jovial Allure of Rococo Painting

Jean-Honoré Nicolas Fragonard (1732-1806) was a prolific artist who left more than 550 paintings. Despite his productivity, Fragonard was completely ignored in the 19th century, probably, because his art belonged to the pre-revolutionary period of Louis XV. Nowadays, he is known as a prominent representative of the rococo style, along with his mentor François Boucher

Today we’ll look at several paintings by François Boucher (1703-1770), who was the most eminent exponent of the rococo (‘rocky’) style in Europe. Lots of significant European museums have his..

(check out our article on his art!). The world of Fragonard is vivid, hedonistic, and sensual. His detailed depictions of idyllic lovers are masterfully performed and curious to watch. Unlike explicit eros of Boucher’s paintings that can be compared to “laughing” shunga

What is Shunga? Uncover the captivating world of this ancient Japanese erotic art form at Explore the history, allure, and secrets of Shunga in its most intriguing form.

 pictures, the eroticism of Fragonard is subtler, like titillating abuna-e images.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard self portrait

Fig. 1. Self-Portrait, 1780s, black chalk with gray wash, Louvre, Paris (

Passion for Art

Fragonard’s father, a glover, initially didn’t want his son to become an artist. Jean-Honoré apprenticed to a Parisian notary for a short period, but his aspiration for art was so strong that at the age of eighteen, he was sent to François Boucher. The latter was an acknowledged painter and deɱanding mentor. He refused to teach an inexperienced youth, though, admitting his talent. Fragonard had to go to Chardin for initial training and returned to Boucher six months later. The apprentice learned very fast, and soon Boucher entrusted him with making replicas of his paintings. Remarkably, Fragonard won the Prix de Rome not being a student of the French Academy. In 1756, having learned all known by French artists, he traveled to Italy to sharpen his skills and study old masters. The Italian landscape with its’ grottos, gardens, and fountains would be widely presented in his paintings.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard the swing

Fig. 2. The Swing, 1767 (

The Swing

One of the most famous of Fragonard’s paintings is The Swing (1767) or The Happy Accidents of the Swing (fig. 2). It depicts a young woɱan on a swing pushed by an older ɱan who holds the ropes. The woɱan is being watched by her young lover hidden in bushes. His position (and her leg, lifted intentionally) allows him to look at what’s under her dress. The shoe

Chinese lotus shoes have in large part determined the Chinese sexual perception for nearly a thousand years (c.960-1911). The female foot bound up to be as small as possible, with the pointed shape of an unopened..

of the flippant lady flies towards the statue of a putto with a gest of silence. Two more putti straddle a fish (an attribute of Venus

This is the third tι̇ɱe that the Swedish Senju Shunga (1968) pays tribute to a classic work of art. Recently he finished a melancholic rendition of John Everett Millais’ Ophelia and a couple of years ago it was..

) that may be an additional symbol of silence and secrecy. The figure of the woɱan, her youth and beauty, is emphasized by light, so the viewer is supposed to look at her through the eyes of her devotees. Allegedly, this painting emerged because one of the courtiers of Louis XV commissioned Gabriel François Doyen to paint him and his mistress. According to the original plan, the ɱan pushing the swing must be a bishop, which would make the painting even more frivolous. Doyen didn’t dare take such a risk, so the courtier asked Fragonard. The artist depicted a layɱan instead of the bishop. Nevertheless, the painting is filled with subtle pastoral eroticism of the rural estate.

the burning flame Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Fig. 3. The Burning Flame, study (

the shirt withdrawn Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Fig. 4. The Shirt Withdrawn (

To Visualize a Metaphor

Le Feu aux Poudres (The Burning Flame, fig. 3) is a less known, though not less amusing, painting by Fragonard. Three mischievous putti frolicking in a bed of a sleeping young girl provoke her sensual dreams. One putto lifts a blanket to let the two… well, literally set the girl’s private parts on fire. By the way, the burning torch is an attribute of Cupid (putto) along with his famous bow and arrows. Fragonard’s picture allows us to learn what it should be used for. The flame in the picture has a double meaning. On the one hand, it serves as a central element in this visualization of a metaphor of sexual arousal. On the other hand, it covers the private parts, thus, performing a censoring function. Speaking of little putti as depicted by Fragonard, we can call them a sort of naughty erotic pixies. For example, in The Shirt Withdrawn (fig. 4), a putto takes away the girl’s clothes.

two girls playing with a dog Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Fig. 5. Two girls playing with dogs

In this article we’ll take a closer look at shunga designs by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) in which he adds mice and dogs as a comic supplement. Fig.1. ‘ Relaxing Couple and copulating mice ‘..


playing with a dog

Fig. 6. Girl playing with a dog (

Favorite Animal

The devotees of Kuniyoshi

Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) famous for his Suikoden Heroes series was also gifted at representing erotic imagery. He is responsible for designing some of the boldest examples in subject and form. The Kuniyoshi prints for..

‘s shunga pictures may know that his favorite animal

Let’s take a closer look at a fascinating Taisho era (1912-1926) album we obtained recently that features a lot of animals performing cunnilingus. The contents of this accordion-folded album reminisces Kobayashi..

was a cat

In the majority of cases the sexual act depicted in shunga take place in the bedroom, either in a private house, an inn or a brothel. But there is also a great diversity of locations. Sex While Cooking For example,..

, as he depicted cats almost in every piece. When it comes to Fragonard, the frequent character of his paintings is a small dog, though, it can be explained not by the artist’s sympathy but by ladies’ tendency to own a toy companion (fig. 5, 6). Having fun with a pet is Fragonard’s pictures’ recurrent motif that involves occasional eroticism.

the stolen kiss

Fig. 7. The Stolen Kiss, 1780s (

the confession of love Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Fig. 8. The Confession of Love, detail (

the confession of love Jean-Honoré Fragonard the bolt

Fig. 9. The Bolt (

the confession of love Jean-Honoré Fragonard the beautiful servant

Fig. 10. The Beautiful Servant (

the confession of love Jean-Honoré Fragonard Desired Moment

Fig. 11. Desired Moment (

the confession of love Jean-Honoré Fragonard Desired Moment study

Fig. 12. Desired Moment, study (


Fig. 13. In the Rye (

Aurora Triumphing over Night Fragonard

Fig. 14. Aurora Triumphing over Night (

Three Graces Jean Honore Fragonard

Fig. 15. Three Graces (

the birth of venus Jean Honore Fragonard

Fig. 16. The Birth of Venus (

the bathers Jean Honore Fragonard

Fig. 17. The Bathers (

Jean Honore Fragonard The Nymph Supported by Two Satyrs

Fig. 18. The Nymph Supported by Two Satyrs, etching (


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