Art History the Transition Thesis

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The church's influence changes the effect of a scene that would otherwise appear explicitly and obviously erotic.

Fragonard's The Swing, however, celebrates the central figure's sexuality by taking an opposite tack. Rather than couch the woman's sexuality in religious imagery, the painting explores in a positively secular fashion by portraying the adulterous couple in a positive light. The woman's lover is granted a view up her dress while her cuckolded husband stands in the shadows, demonstrating a complete ideological reversal in regards to sexuality, and particularly women's sexuality. Where before Teresa's sexuality had to be couched in the language of a miraculous appearance, the sexuality of the figure in The Swing is shown to have a worldly, naturalistic character that values the blessing of Cupid over the baleful gaze of cherubs. In The Swing, not only is sexuality permitted, but sexuality that explicitly defies Biblical standards of morality appears to be the ideal.

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In the years between the creation of Bernini's sculpture and Fragonard's painting, Europe had undergone a dramatic and unprecedented shift, as power moved away from the church and into the hands of royalty, nobles, and an emerging class of capitalists. As these power structures did not share the church's uncomfortable relationship with human nature, the art they patronized was free to reflect their more modern, secular morals. Thus, where The Swing and the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa share a direct stylistic and aesthetic connection due to their mutual attention to the curves and folds of a woman in motion, the thematic connection they share is inverted. That is to say, while both works deal with the theme of a woman in apparent ecstasy during a (relatively) secret meaning, the moral or ideological position taken in relation to that ecstasy is inverted, because the Rococo painting is comfortable celebrating sexual concepts that must be suppressed into the visual language of religion during the Baroque era.

Thesis on Art History the Transition From Assignment

Comparing Bernini's Ecstasy of Saint Teresa with Fragonard's The Swing allows one to better understand how historical culture influences any given style, and in this case the transition from Baroque to Rococo. The two styles are related, and their share some visual and aesthetic concerns, but they differ wildly in terms of narrative content and the ideological evaluation of that content. Both works share an attention to curves and folds as a means of demonstrating the sexualized movement of their central female characters, but the end to which these visual tools are used is quite different in either case. Bernini uses these stylistic choices to hint at the sexuality rippling beneath the religious tale, while Fragonard uses the same techniques to celebrate the open sexuality of the characters at play, whose sexuality has already risen so close to the surface that it actually threatens to be revealed in the painting itself. These differences are brought about by a cultural shift which occurred during the time between either work's creation, and demonstrate the Roman Catholic Church's gradual loss of political, economic, and cultural influence in the face of a rising capitalist, secular oligarchy. This new power structure did not recreate the moral position of the church, and as a result the Baroque style grew into the lighter, more secular Rococo.

Works Cited

Berman, Jessica. "Ethical Folds: Ethics, Aesthetics, Woolf." Modern Fiction Studies 50.1 (2004):


Bernini, Gian Lorenzo. The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. 1652. Photograph. WikimediaWeb. 31 Jul

2012. .

Coonin, A.V. "The Life of Gian Lorenzo Bernini." Choice 49.4 (2011): 666-.

Fragonard, Jean-Honore. Swing. ca. 1767. Painting. WikimediaWeb. 31 Jul 2012.


McCormick, T.J. "Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture." Choice 46.10 (2009):


Schroder, Anne L. "Fragonard's Later Career: The Contes Et Nouvelles and the Progress of Love

Revisited." The Art Bulletin 93.2 (2011): 150-0_7. [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Art History the Transition" Thesis in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Art History the Transition.  (2012, July 31).  Retrieved May 10, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Art History the Transition."  31 July 2012.  Web.  10 May 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Art History the Transition."  July 31, 2012.  Accessed May 10, 2021.