The Stolen Kiss explores the theme of secretive romance and passionate moments grabbed in a fleeting moment. The painting captures a perfectly frozen moment in time, two lovers caught by the spectator in the act of stealing a furtive kiss while no-one else is looking.
The young maiden is coquettish, leaning in for the kiss while at the same time looking away back towards the other members of the party in the next room over.
The action is stilted, the figures posed in what almost seems to be a caricature of a passionate embrace. In keeping with the frivolity of Rococo style, the young lady’s dress is painted with extraordinary attention to detail. The decoration and fashion becomes almost a third character in the scene.
This type of semi-erotic theme was quite popular in the heady days before the French Revolution, particularly with the French aristocracy who slouched fashionably around the halls of Versailles digging up romantic follies and gossip fodder of their own. Fragonard was the favored genius of this genre.
One can almost see in the sly look of the maiden’s eyes the knowledge of the coming storm, knowing that the decadence couldn’t last, and in this way The Stolen Kiss stands as a historical artifact, transcending the bounds of mere genre eroticism.