Bolt

7:00 AM


Fragonard, Bolt, 1777

Too much. It's just too much. The subject matter is enough in itself, but the movement and colors are the truly unsettling parts. Their interaction looks like a violent dance. From the sweeping gesture his arm makes for the bolt to the weak stretch of the woman's leg, the piece is tense and blatant in the most theatrical of ways. Fragonard's usual style is far different than a piece as dark as this one, but there are little tell-tale signs of his influence. The color of the curtain is reminiscent of the drapery in Caravaggio's Death of the Virgin, the dark red hue far too similar to blood. Her dress, even though it is so bright, cannot compete with the intensity of that red, slowly eating away the rest of the piece.

Looking at this piece for the first time, I couldn't even tell it was Fragonard's work. Parts are similar to his other works, but the subject matter is violent and serious and completely contrasting to the glamorous - almost comically so - scenes he usually does. There is blatant sexuality in all of them, but in others it is lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek rather than this dark scene. Immanuel Kant speaks of the Enlightenment era this piece was made in, saying that "Enlightenment is man leaving his self-caused immaturity." This rings true in this piece, with Fragonard's usually playful work taking a much more mature form. Isaac Newton takes this point further, speaking of the human body and how "the bodies which we handle we find impenetrable... we conclude that the least particles of all bodies to be also all extended, and hard and impenetrable, and moveable..." In this way, Fragonard extends his figures' bodies and fills up the space from arm to leg, with their interaction both frozen in time and taking place right before the readers' eyes.

I just want to run in there and stop him, to help push him off of her and unbolt the door. Her arm has such tension as she pushes against him, though her face confuses me. I can't tell if it is the face of someone who has resigned to her fate or if Fragonard just focused more upon body language. Either way, the tension between the two is palpable and overwhelms the piece, making even the gentle drapery feel like another obstacle to saving the woman. It feels voyeuristic and unsettling. But there's a small part of me that is in awe of Fragonard's ability to make both of those emotions come across so adeptly in just one half of a canvas. This piece is something special.

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