Artist: Yinka Shonibare
Date: 2001 (contemporary art, but based on 18th Century Rococco)
Title: The Swing (After Fragonard)
Media: Mannequin, Cotton Costume, 2 Slippers, Swing Seat, 2 Ropes, Oak Twig and Artificial Foliage
A rather humourous reaction to the original (seen below), Shonibare reunites us with Fragonard’s The Swing but with a historic hindsight. The original Swing was painted in a Rococco style – a movement packed with light and airy symbolism, popular with the French Aristocrats in the mid 18th century.
Shonibare takes this notion and completely spins it on it’s head – he represents the female subject in sculpture, changing the fabric of her cultural dress to African print, hinting at the cultural diversity in today’s world. It is instantly noticeable to us that the female lacks a head. This can be interpreted as a simultaneous criticism of the Rococco and French aristocracy; both lack personality and moral reasoning. The head could also be a symbol of the guillotine, which was introduced to Paris 25 years after Fragonard finished his painting. It reminds us of the Royalist’s fate and our misplaced importance on materialism.
Although Shonibare intends for the piece to be seen front view, it’s 3-Dimensional medium means that we can assume position of the two male spectators and place ourselves at the back or beneath her skirt. Something familiar is made uncanny and brings the exposition of females to a whole new level.