Crossing Boundaries: The Bolt

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Jean-Honore Fragonard, The Bolt, 1777

Crossing Boundaries
By EMMA SHAPIRO

Jean-Honore Fragonard painted The Bolt (also known by The Lock) in 1777. Initially this painting appears similar to Fragonard’s The Stolen Kiss, a romantic scene of lust and affection. It has the same softness and flowy drapery, but the room is in a disarray. The chairs legs stick out, the harsh red drape falls around the messy bed, and roses scatter the floor. The woman in The Stolen Kiss shows a lack of complete interest in her face, but the tilt of her body confirms her consent. However, the woman in The Bolt looks unhappy in her face and seems to be pulling away from the male grasp. With closer examination of the subject matter and the name the painting loses its loving appeal and adopts a more violent one. 

Fragonard meant for The Bolt to compliment his Adoration of the Shepherds. The Adoration shows sacred love and redemption, whereas The Bolt sends a message of sin and desire. The bed takes up a large portion of the canvas, an obvious symbol of eroticism. Fragonard also draws the viewer to the violence by streaking the light from the bolt and following the pull of the man's arm. The man's arm moves up to the bolt, but his body falls toward the woman. The woman on the other hand has lost her balance and control. Fragonard shows a complete invasion of space. The man crosses the unconsenting woman's personal boundaries as well as her sexual comfort levels. 

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