Attributes of the Arts / Attributes of the Sciences
Jean Siméon Chardin
Paris, 1699 - Paris, 1779
1731, oil on cavas, 220 x 140 cm
Recognised at a fair as a minor genre painter, Jean Siméon Chardin was admitted to the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1728. He then committed himself to earning this new title, with these two large decorative paintings, designed to be overdoors. He chose a subject, knowing that it would be decrypted thanks to numerous details. To call to mind the sciences, he represented a globe, a telescope, a microscope, a square, geographic maps and some books. The arts are represented by a marble bust, a bas-relief, a mallet, a palette and brushes and rolls of paper. But he does not confine himself to these symbols; he accompanies them with appropriate objects to create an atmosphere of wealth and exoticism, hinting at distant travels. It was at this time that he officially became the great painter of subjects and still lifes that he would remain.
These two canvases spread as a frieze across the entire width in a space comprising two parallel styles, separated by a stone balustrade. Bundles of oblique lines – the brushes, the rolls of maps and the telescope – create a dynamic in this well-structured composition.
These two paintings were commissioned for a Parisian library where they were hung quite high. They were therefore composed to be viewed from below.