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[MUSIC PLAYING] STEVEN ZUCKER: We're in the Wallace Collection in London. This is Fragonard's "The Swing." BETH HARRIS: And the first thing that I notice is this poof of pink and the lacy white in the center of the painting. This woman is going up on a swing. And I notice she's sitting on a red, velvet, and gold seat on that swing, held up by ropes, and this fabulous swirl of a hat, and you can see her white silk stockings, and she flips one pink slipper into the air. STEVEN ZUCKER: And she looks completely mischievous. BETH HARRIS: And of course what's going on is very naughty because we have a figure in the left corner that she's looking down at, who's obviously her lover, hidden in the bushes. And she's connived the man in the opposite corner to push her on a swing, an older gentlemen. STEVEN ZUCKER: Who's probably innocent of the fact that the young man is hidden in the bushes. BETH HARRIS: Yes. And we've just noticed that there's a double row of short fencing surrounding the sculpture on the left side. So her lover has obviously gone into a little area that you're not supposed to go into, that's sort of overgrown with wild roses and is sort of hiding in the bushes. STEVEN ZUCKER: Take a look at that sculpture on the left. And it actually shows a little angelic figure or a putti, who's actually got his finger up to his lips as if he's saying shh,-- BETH HARRIS: Shh. STEVEN ZUCKER: --keep the secret. BETH HARRIS: And we're not out in the wild here. We're like behind a villa or a palace. STEVEN ZUCKER: You can just actually make out some architecture in the distance, just under her left arm. This is a garden that's been overgrown. It's lush, but it's out of control. It is nature at its most, sort of, energetic and-- BETH HARRIS: Fertile-- STEVEN ZUCKER: Fertile. BETH HARRIS: --and abundant. STEVEN ZUCKER: Exactly, right. BETH HARRIS: Sort of speaking to the sort of sexual, sensual being. STEVEN ZUCKER: And somewhat dreamlike as well, in its mists. The tree and its boughs are at times full of foliage, at times are bare and represent sometimes what is referred as the blast and the bough, which is almost like lightning crisscrossing across the canvas-- BETH HARRIS: Mmhmm. STEVEN ZUCKER: --which is sometimes used as an expression of passion, which would be absolutely appropriate here, of course. BETH HARRIS: We have behind, just under the woman, a sculpture, that's just two little, also putti or Cupid-like figures being playful with each other and on what maybe looks like a beehive, perhaps indicating the stings of love. STEVEN ZUCKER: Easy to miss, in the bottom right corner, is a little dog. BETH HARRIS: Yeah. Yapping. STEVEN ZUCKER: That seems to be yapping. Now, a dog of course is a symbol of fidelity. And so maybe the dog-- BETH HARRIS: It's a little bit ironic here. STEVEN ZUCKER: Well, maybe that's why the dog's a little upset. BETH HARRIS: And it's almost like the dog is perhaps giving away the secret. STEVEN ZUCKER: Oh, right. That's right. BETH HARRIS: And the sculpture is saying, "shh." STEVEN ZUCKER: This is 1767. So we're really a couple of decades before the Revolution. But this is the kind of indulgence and expression of pleasure that really does characterize the aristocracy and the ruling class in France. BETH HARRIS: And it's this kind of painting, this kind of painting that seems about only pleasure that Diderot and the other thinkers of the Enlightenment are going to rail against and call for an art that is heroic and virtuous and appeals to the highest human aspirations, and not our basest human aspirations. And it's that kind of Enlightenment thinking that will lead, of course, to the Revolution in 1789. [MUSIC PLAYING]
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