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Oil painting - The Swing
  • The Swing
    Lancret, Nicolas, born 1690 - died 1743
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The Swing

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    France (painted)

  • Date:

    1730s (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Lancret, Nicolas, born 1690 - died 1743 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 2a, case CA2

Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743) was born in Paris where he first trained as an engraver before becoming the apprentice of the history painter Pierre Dulin (1669–1748), and enrolled as a student at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. He later entered the workshop of the genre and decorative painter Claude Gillot (1673-1722), who had been Watteau’s master (1684-1721). He specialised in the genre of the fêtes galantes inaugurated by Watteau and decorative works for which enjoyed a considerable success.

This painting is a fine example of Lancret’s production of genre paintings showing elegant figures in an outdoor setting. The present picture shows a young lady pulled on a swing by a young man on the edge of a wood and evokes an amorous encounter. These lascivious scenes were often depicted to ornate rooms’ panelling or piece of furniture. Lancret’s genre paintings, influenced artists as diverse as François Boucher (1703-1770), William Hogarth (1697-1764) and Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788).

Physical description

An elegant lady on a swing helped by a young man on the left hand-side in a romantic wood dominating a valley.

Place of Origin

France (painted)


1730s (painted)


Lancret, Nicolas, born 1690 - died 1743 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

oil on canvas


Height: 70 cm estimate, Width: 89 cm estimate

Object history note

Bequeathed by John Jones, 1882

John Jones (1800-1882) was first in business as a tailor and army clothier in London 1825, and opened a branch in Dublin 1840. Often visited Ireland, travelled to Europe and particularly France. He retired in 1850, but retained an interest in his firm. Lived quietly at 95 Piccadilly from 1865 to his death in January 1882. After the Marquess of Hertford and his son Sir Richard Wallace, Jones was the principal collector in Britain of French 18th century fine and decorative arts. Jones bequeathed an important collection of French 18th-century furniture and porcelain to the V&A, and among the British watercolours and oil paintings he bequeathed to the V&A are subjects which reflect his interest in France.

Historical context note

This painting, entitled L'escarpolette (i.e. 'the swing'), shows a young lady pulled on a swing by a young man on the edge of a wood. The swing is a recurrent thematic in Lancret's oeuvre and a similar scene formed once the best known decorative ensemble of a series of nine paintings commissioned for the Hôtel de Boullongne in Paris, currently in the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

X-ray examinations revealed traces of decorative framework on all four sides suggesting that the present painting was also originally part of a decorative scheme.
This painting is a fine example of 18th-century pastoral scenes, which present elegant figures in garden or wooded settings.

These scenes, called 'fetes galantes' in French, constitute a genre inaugurated by Antoine Watteau at the beginning of the 18th century. They often include figures dressed in commedia dell'arte costumes and evoke a lascivious aristocratic world. Because of their intimate and often ambiguous subject matter, these pictures were also used as decorative compositions inserted in architectural structures or pieces of furniture.

The theme of the swing was common in 18th-century French painting and appears as an implicit allusion to carnal love. Another example of the same subject by Lancret with more figures is in the Hermitage, St Petersburg while The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (London, Wallace collection)may be the most famous 18th-century illustration of the theme.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'The Swing (L'Escarpolette)', Nicolas Lancret, Paris, 1730s

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

C.M. Kauffmann, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: 1973, pp. 166-7, cat. no. 205.
100 Great Paintings in The Victoria & Albert Museum.London: 1985, p.60
1893 Catalogue, p. 181.
Sir C. Phillips, 'A Watteau in the Jones Collection' in The Burlington Magazine, xiii, 1908, p. 345 ff., repr.
E. H. Zimmermann, Watteau, K. d. K., 1912, p. 148.
B. Long, Catalogue of the Jones Collection, London: 1923, p. 24 f., pl. 25.
G. Wildenstein, Lancret, Paris: 1924, no. 234, pl. 63.
Princely treasures. European masterpieces 1600-1800 from the Victoria and Albert Museum, S. Medlam and L. Miller ed., London, 2011, p.120, illus.

Labels and date

The following is the label text from 1971 for Galleries 1-7 of the V&A:

"The Swing (L'Escarpolette)
By Nicholas Lancret (1690-1745); Paris, about 1730
A similar painting attributed to Lancret was inset as an overdoor around 1730 in a house in the Place Vendôme.
Oil on canvas
Jones Collection
Museum No. 515-1882" []


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Genre; Swings; Woods; Painted Lady; Figures; Flirtation; Lovers; Valley




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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