Interesting questions, Michael Newberry.
I don’t think the nude is the closest way to show true feeling but I do think it is one of the ways.
RE: visual cues to convey the psychology of the subject, I can only think of two just yet.
The first is how the subject interacts with the props in the painting. The key here is that the subject is not just another prop, as was my criticism of the Courbet.
“The aristocratic frivolity of the French Rococo” is one of the most specific descriptions I’ve ever read. But here in my first favorite painting you see the subject kicking off her shoe, gazing at the lounging man and swinging, seemingly without a care in the world. The shoe, the swing and the flowing skirts are how Fragonard conveys carefree in the privacy of the forest, away from society.
The second is how the subject interacts with their location. I thought about Dalí’s female subjects, how often their backs are to an empty room and turned away from the viewer, the painter and perhaps also the present? So often they are looking toward something else and it always seems like a different life or a different future.