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Still life with attributes of the arts

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin1724/1728

The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
Moscow, Russia

The still life holds a major place in Chardin's oeuvre. Time and again he returned to the portrayal of "Attributes of the Arts", painting more than twenty compositions on this theme, proudly asserting the importance of the artist's work. Most of these pictures were used as decorative panels over the door of a cabinet or salon, which explains why Chardin chose a horizontal format for them and showed the object from below. In the Moscow painting(1724-1728), possibly painted together with his son, the artist's working utensils are assembled on the table, chalk, a pencil, a protractor and a set of drawing instruments, as well as books and a roll of patterns. The centrepiece of the composition is a plaster cast of the head of Mercury by the sculptor Pigalle, a friend of Chardin's.
The arrangement of the objects is free, but meaningful. Everything here is useful and well thought out. The objects testify to the reflections and labour of the artist. Each of them has an inner life of its own: the rolls unfold elastically, the books lean against one another and there are markers in their pages. There is restrained movement in the turn of Mercury's head bearing the winged cap of a messenger. As messenger of the gods, protector of stonemasons and traders, the god of rhetoric and thought, guardian of schools and palestrae, he is the logical crown of the composition and embodiment of Chardin's ideas. The activity and vitality of each item are revealed by the colour structure, where the paints convey the natural material, merging under the artist's brush into harmonic combinations.

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Still life with attributes of the arts (Supplemental)

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