A follow-up on Boucher and Chardin at the Wallace

Chardin La toilette

Chardin La toilette

I have now seen the Boucher & Chardin exhibition twice and still can’t decide what it was about: was it tea in the 18th century? French versus English way of life? Chardin versus Boucher? All three, I believe, possibly more. In any case, it was too much for a two-room show.  Yet those shortcomings could not diminish my enjoyment of the works displayed.

Look in particular at this Chardin painting of a mother putting the finishes touches to her little girl’s Sunday best in preparation for Mass. A quiet display of love and grace.

Now compare this Chardin to Boucher’s take on a morning toilette, below. The scene here is purely worldly, and the lady shows quite a bit of leg while tying her garter. The interaction is with a maid, who brings her mistress an elegant cap. The lady still wears a smock on her shoulders, probably because her hair has just been powdered.

Boucher La toilette 1742

Boucher La toilette 1742

The lady’s attitude is, well, not very ladylike, and the clutter of the room, the various objects lying on the floor create an impression of confusion. Quite the opposite of the serenity of the Chardin.

These paintings illustrate beautifully the diverging currents in 18th century French society.

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