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Claude Michel, called Clodion (French, 1738–1814), The See-Saw (L’Escarpolette), terracotta, about 1775. 17 1/2 x 16 1/4 in. Gallery 28
We usually think of see-sawing as a playground pastime for children, but in 18th-century French culture, the back-and-forth, up-and-down activity had a much less innocent connotation. Clodion underlines the game as an erotic metaphor for the pleasures of love by sculpting a nude nymph and lusty woodland satyr teeter-tottering on a log. If you look closely, you can see the marks of Clodion’s sculpting tools and hands in the clay, giving the sculpture not only texture but also a personal and intimate feel. This sculpture is currently part of the small focus exhibition Love and Play: A Pair of Paintings by Fragonard (Gallery 28), where you can see painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s own version of the see-saw theme.
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