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Prayer before lunch

Painting, 1744, 49.5×38.4 cm

Description of the artwork «Prayer before lunch»

"Praying before dinner" one of the most famous paintings of Chardin, genre scene from the life of the social layers that the artist knew from their own life experience and loved – the poor and virtuous of the French bourgeoisie. The scale of the picture is quite small (a little less than 40 to 50 cm) that is fully consistent with its intimate, "cozy" content. The young mother poured the soup teaches children to say grace before eating. The older girl, apparently, already has this skill, and pious (but without any lanotte and cloying) mother focused on the younger child.

The composition of the painting is simple and unpretentious: the dark neutral background with bright speakers with a white cloth a table and three illuminated human figures. With soulful warmth Chardin writes modest surroundings of the home, a quiet family happiness, threads of understanding that can occur between mother and child in the process of two quite mundane and yet fundamental things like food and prayer.

Was there a boy?

A controversial issue is gender depicted in the painting the young child, whose mother teaches you to pray.

Some critics rightly believe that it's a boy. It is argued, first, that in the XVIII century little boys and girls dressed absolutely identically. For example, modern American culture scholar Karin Calvert testifies that the tradition to dress a little boy in a dress existed until the end of XVIII century: "Boys, before I wore a suit men, passed through three clearly marked stages: the first 3-4 years in skirts, the next 3-5 years in children's pants and another 2-3 years – in a slightly lightweight version adult costume". The second argument in favor of the fact that in "Prayer before dinner," depicts a male child, is "boyish" toy – drum, hung on the back of a chair.

However, such a renowned expert on the artist like Inna Nemilova, author of "Simon Chardin and his paintings in the State Hermitage" (1961), has no doubt that we have before us two girls. "The young mother poured the soup at the same time trying to get two daughters to repeat the words of the pre-lunch prayer. (...) A great creative success Chardin is the image of the younger girls. With an exceptional delicacy given as the child's feelings, and characteristic posture and movement".

"Praying before dinner" and its copies

There are several variants of "Prayer before dinner," written by Chardin in the decade 1740-1450. the Hermitage is proud of the fact that only the Hermitage copy is the artist's signature and the date is 1744. "Praying before dinner", held in the Louvreonly slightly different from the version the Hermitage: almost identical composition and color, in the Louvre version is more lightweight written the bottom right corner and there is no such detail as a pot of eggs. This version of the painting was presented Chardin king Louis XV in 1740, the year. Other copies of the work of Chardin possess the Stockholm Museum, Boymans van Beuningen (Rotterdam) and a number of private collections. One of the copies of "a Prayer..."stored in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh (Antwerp), has significantly expanded the composition: to the left of the main actors, you can see the illuminated wall, the door and the boy-servant carrying a tray to the dining table. This interpretation of the critics admit is not too good due to the collapse of compositional integrity and some mechanical adherence to the story more character. Apparently, the artist himself was not satisfied with this decision because it appealed to him only once.

A large number of copies of the painting attests not only to the continuous creative search Chardin, but that "the Prayer before dinner" was a success with contemporaries. This interest in the painting by Chardin is a special case of the most important for the mid-eighteenth century trends: the shift from the tradition of courtly-ceremonial painting and democratization of art.

Author: Anna Yesterday
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Genre scene

Style of art: Rococo

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1744

Size: 49.5×38.4 cm

Artwork in selections: 14 selections