In 1728 Chardin was admitted to the French Academy, and achieved immediate and lasting fame as a painter of still life. This picture is unusual in that it combines motifs from the kitchen and the hunt. The covered silver tureen is an elegant, expensive vessel of a sort he depicted only rarely.
Chardin paints the feathers of the bird and the coat of the hare with great subtlety, contrasting their stiffening stillness with the tense body of the crouching cat. The composition is balanced with great care.
Chardin, the son of an artisan, was born in Paris and spent his entire life there. He was received into the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1728 as a painter of animals and fruit. From 1737 he exhibited regularly at the Salon, and later he held several official positions at the Académie, of which he was a lifelong member and supporter. Beginning in 1733 Chardin also painted and exhibited genre scenes, many of which were engraved, and in the last decade of his life, when on account of the risk to his failing eyesight he could no longer work in oils, he turned his attention to head studies and portraits in pastel. His simple bourgeois subjects, quite atypical for the time, were sought after by collectors not only in Paris but throughout Europe.
It is reliably reported that Chardin’s friend the young engraver Jacques Philippe Le Bas (1707–1783) paid the painter a visit one day and found him working on a picture of a cat staring at a dead hare. Le Bas, greatly impressed, desired to buy it. Chardin is said to have replied that this could be arranged, as Le Bas was wearing a jacket that pleased him; Le Bas exchanged the jacket for the painting. Silver Tureen is the only known work by Chardin that fits this description and it seems to have been in the Le Bas sale. On grounds of style, the canvas dates to about 1728–30. The ledge or shelf where the artist’s signature may appear (as here) is typical. Its variation from the horizontal introduces a note of imbalance. The colors of the fruit are reflected in the silver tureen, while the supple crouch of the cat contrasts with the stiffening forms of the dead hare and partridge.
[Katharine Baetjer 2015]
Inscription: Signed (left of center): J·chardin
Jacques Philippe Le Bas, Paris (until d. 1783; his estate sale, Paris, December 1ff., 1783, no. 12, as "Un Lièvre mort, un Chat qui le guette & des Fruits sur un rebord de pierre," H. 20 pouces, L. 38 pouces [about 54.1 x 102.8 cm], for 9 livres 13 sols); Laurent Laperlier, Paris (by 1860–67; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 11–13, 1867, no. 19, as "La Soupière d'argent," for Fr 2,350); J. W. G. Davis, London (1867–69; his sale [J.-W.-G. D***], Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 25, 1869, no. 20, as "Une Soupière d'argent, du Gibier, et des Fruits," for Fr 2,120); Maillet du Boullay, Rouen (1869; his sale [M. D*** B***], Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 8, 1869, no. 1, as "La Soupière d'argent," for Fr 1,920); Monsieur Edwards (until 1905; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 25, 1905, no. 5, as "La Soupière d'argent," for Fr 27,500 to Lazard for Rothschild); baron Henri de Rothschild, Paris (1905–31); his daughter, Nadine, Mme Adrien Thierry, Paris (1931–d.1958); her brother, baron Philippe de Rothschild, Paris (until 1959; sold to Rosenberg & Stiebel); [Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York, 1959; sold to MMA]
Paris. 26, Boulevard des Italiens [Francis Petit]. "Tableaux et dessins de l'école française, principalement du XVIIIe siècle, tirés de collections d'amateurs," 1860, no. 355 (lent anonymously).
Paris. Galerie Georges Petit. "Chardin et Fragonard," June–July 1907, no. 60 (as "Le Lièvre," lent by Henri de Rothschild).
Paris. Galerie Pigalle. "Chardin," October 1929, no. 40 (lent by H. de Rothschild).
Rotterdam. Museum Boymans. "Vier Eeuwen Stilleven in Frankrijk," July 10–September 20, 1954, no. 52 (lent by a private collection).
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Chardin: 1699–1779," January 29–April 30, 1979, no. 20.
Cleveland Museum of Art. "Chardin: 1699–1779," May 30–August 12, 1979, no. 20.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Chardin: 1699–1779," September 18–November 19, 1979, no. 20.
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Chardin," September 7–November 22, 1999, no. 17.
Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf. "Chardin," December 5, 1999–February 20, 2000, no. 17.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Chardin," March 9–May 28, 2000, no. 17.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chardin," June 19–September 3, 2000, no. 17.
W. Bürger [Théophile Thoré]. "Exposition de tableaux de l'école française ancienne tirés de collections d'amateurs." Gazette des beaux-arts 8 (November 15, 1860), pp. 234–35, as stronger in tone than Snyders, and as vigorously painted as Cuyp.
Ph[ilippe]. Burty. "Profils d'amateurs: Laurent Laperlier." L'art 16 (1879), p. 148, as sold to Boulay at the Laperlier sale.
Edmond de Goncourt and Jules de Goncourt. L'art du dix-huitième siècle. Vol. 1, 3rd ed. Paris, 1880, pp. 100, 127–28, relate that, according to a manuscript note in a copy of the Le Bas sale catalogue, Le Bas admired this painting and wished to buy it; Chardin remarked "on peut s'arranger; tu as une veste qui me plaist fort".
Charles Normand. Les artistes célèbres. Vol. 55, J.-B.-Siméon Chardin. Paris, 1901, pp. 14–16.
Armand Dayot and Jean Guiffrey. J.-B Siméon Chardin avec un catalogue complet de l'oeuvre du maître. Paris, 1907, pp. 37, 88, no. 201, as in the Henri de Rothschild collection; associate it with the painting in the 1783 Le Bas sale and the 1834 Desfriches sale.
Armand Dayot and Léandre Vaillat. L'oeuvre de J.-B.-S. Chardin et de J.-H. Fragonard. Paris, , p. iv–v, no. 21, pl. 21.
Edmond Pilon. Chardin. Paris, , p. 66 n. 1, p. 168.
Herbert E. A. Furst. Chardin. London, 1911, p. 129.
Arsène Alexandre. "A la gloire de Chardin." La Renaissance 12 (November 1929), p. 528, ill. p. 526.
André Pascal [Henri de Rothschild] and Roger Gaucheron. Documents sur la vie et l'oeuvre de Chardin. Paris, 1931, pp. 119, 139.
Georges Wildenstein. Chardin. Paris, 1933, p. 207, no. 688, fig. 75, owing to the discrepancy in size, catalogues as no. 689 the painting in the Le Bas sale, as a repetition or variant of the Rothschild picture.
Georges Wildenstein. "Le décor de la vie de Chardin d'après ses tableaux." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 53 (February 1959), p. 99, notes that no silver soup tureen was included in Chardin's inventory and suggests that the artist borrowed it from a silversmith as Desportes is known to have done.
Colin Eisler. "A Chardin in the Grand Manner." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 18 (February 1960), pp. 203–12, ill. p. 202, compares it to "Two Rabbits with a Game Bag" at Karlsruhe, dated 1728; suggests the tureen may be pewter and calls it a "pot-à-oille".
Fritz Neugass. "Neuerwerbungen amerikanischer Museen." Weltkunst 20 (April 1, 1960), p. 7, ill. on cover.
"Mostre musei gallerie." Sele arte 8, no. 46 (May–June 1960), p. 16, fig. 22.
Georges Wildenstein. Chardin. Zürich, 1963, p. 140, no. 33, fig. 14, dates it 1727–28; catalogues as no. 34 the picture from the Le Bas sale.
Georges Wildenstein. Chardin. Ed. Daniel Wildenstein. revised and enlarged ed. Greenwich, Conn., 1969, p. 148, no. 33, fig. 14.
Jean Cailleux, ed. "Three Portraits in Pastel and their History." L'art du dix-huitième siècle [Advertisement supplement to Burlington Magazine] no. 27 (November 1971), pp. iii, v.
Mitsuhiko Kuroe. Chardin. Exh. cat., Japan Art Center. Tokyo, 1975, ill. p. 80.
Pierre Rosenberg. Chardin: 1699–1779. Exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 1979, pp. 75, 77–78, 110, 135–36, no. 20, fig. 20, colorpl. 3, and ill. p. 41 (detail), dates the picture 1727–28; describes the silver tureen as unique in Chardin's oeuvre, and mentions that Alcouffe finds it close to the work of Claude II Bellin (1661–1754); identifies the vegetable as a cardoon; thinks there was probably a misprint in the Le Bas sale catalogue—i.e., 20 pouces should have read 30 pouces (or 71 cm).
William S. Talbot inChardin and the Still-Life Tradition in France. Exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 1979, pp. 16, 18, 91, fig. 5.
Pierre Rosenberg. "A Chardin for Kansas City." The Nelson Gallery and Atkins Museum Bulletin 5 (January 1981), p. 33, fig. 10.
Charles S. Moffett inManet, 1832–1883. Ed. Françoise Cachin and Charles S. Moffett. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983, p. 216, fig. a.
Pierre Rosenberg. L'opera completa di Chardin. Milan, 1983, p. 76, no. 39, ill. p. 76 and colorpl. 3.
Shosaburo Kimura and Kimio Nakayama. Chardin. [Tokyo], 1985, no. 5, ill. p. 78.
René Démoris. Chardin, la chair et l'objet. Paris, 1991, pp. 42, 53–54, fig. 6, suggests that the originality of this picture lies in the convergence of the hunt and the kitchen.
Marianne Roland Michel. Chardin. Paris, 1994, pp. 35, 151, ill. pp. 56, 64 (color, overall and detail) [English ed., New York, 1996].
Étienne Jollet. Chardin: La vie silencieuse. Paris, 1995, ill. p. 6.
Pierre Rosenberg. Chardin. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2000, pp. 148–49, no. 17, ill. (color).
Marie-Laure de Rochebrune inChardin. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2000, p. 40, notes that the shape of the "pot à oille" represented here recalls Besnier or Ballin and dates the tureen to 1710–15.
Richard R. Brettell and Stephen F. Eisenman. Nineteenth-Century Art in the Norton Simon Museum. Ed. Sara Campbell. Vol. 1, New Haven, 2006, p. 254, fig. 67f.
According to Rosenberg 1979, the original source for the anecdote concerning Chardin and Jacques Philippe Le Bas (1707–1783) is a biography of Le Bas by Joullain fils, dating prior to 7 Frimaire Year IV, that is, 1795 or before (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Cabinet des Estampes, Ee1 to Ee5).