Taking Time: Chardin's Boy Building a House of Cards
Recently acquired by Waddesdon Manor, Jean-Siméon Chardin's early masterpiece Boy Building a House of Cards has a self-contained stillness that contrasts with the splendour of its new setting. Yet, it resonates with existing apspects of the collection from games and the representation of childhood to the influence of North European genre painting on French art. A child playing – with cards, bubbles, spinning-top or shuttlecock – was a favourite subject of Chardin's. Such scenes, with their intimations of the transitory nature of human life, were derived from 16th- and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish vanitas, but display a delight in childhood for its own sake.
Full of repetition, pendants and series, this catalogue allows the reader to scrutinize some of Chardin's greatest works, and to follow the artist's exploration of some of his most arresting subjects. Prints by Pierre Filloeul, Antoine Marcenay de Ghuy and others demonstrate the shifts in appearance and meaning that Chardin's card-house compositions underwent through transposition from painting to engraving. The prints also help reconstruct some of the occasional pairings in which Chardin's figure paintings were staged, whether on the walls of the Salon or in the cabinets of private collectors. The pendants include two of the most famous of all Chardin's figure paintings, Lady Taking Tea and Girl with a Shuttlecock. Essays in self-containment and stillness, these works invite us to consider the nature of attention – the attention of the painter, his human subjects and ourselves.
This richly illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire (28 March – 15 July 2012) that will unite Chardin's four paintings of a boy with a house of cards for the first time (loans come from the Musée du Louvre, Paris; the National Gallery, London; the National Gallery of Art, Washington), allowing us to examine Chardin's treatment of the subject in the context of his fascination with themes of play, childhood and adolescence. Pierre Rosenberg, former director of the Musée du Louvre and the pre-eminent scholar of Chardin's work, considers the Rothchilds as collectors of Chardin; Pauline Prévost-Marcilhacy, an independent scholar and Rothschild specialist, gives an insight into Charlotte de Rothschild's collecting; Katie Scott, lecturer at The Courtauld Institute of Art, specializing in French art and architecture of the early modern period, explores Chardin's paintings of games; and Juliet Carey, Curator of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture at Waddesdon Manor and curator of the exhibition, writes on repetition and meaning in Chardin's houses of cards and their pendants.
By Juliet Carey
160 pages, paperback
260 x 210 mm, 100 colour illustrations
ISBN: 978 1 907372 33 9
Juliet Carey, with essays by Pauline Prévost-Marcilhacy, Pierre Rosenberg and Katie Scott