Chardin at the Edge of Belief: Overlooked Issues of Religion and Dissent in Eighteenth-Century French Painting

  • Thomas Crow
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)


John Barrell taught a generation to think about British art of the eighteenth century within the interplay of deep assumptions about civic virtue, its carriers and its responsibilities. The Political Theory of Painting told a complex story and one that was new to most of its readers, even those well-versed in the intellectual, political and art history of the period.1 It also represented a challenge to art historians, in that the ideological staging ground that Barrell situated in the century’s early decades preceded its realization in paint on canvas. Ritual protestations about the primacy of ‘the object’ proved no defense against the implicit demands of history that scholarship first meet the standard of textual interpretation that Barrell had established as necessary for an adequate grasp of eighteenth-century British art.


Civic Virtue History Painter Public Exhibition Established Church Adequate Grasp 
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  1. 1.
    John Barrell, The Political Theory Of Painting From Reynolds To Hazlitt: ‘The Body of the Public’ (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 129–33.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Susan Wise, ‘Jean-Siméon Chardin: The White Tablecloth’, in Larry J. Feinberg and Martha Wolff eds, French and British Paintings from 1600 to 1800 in the Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Collection (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), pp. 24–8.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    On the two paintings, see most recently Pierre Rosenberg, ed., Chardin, exhibition catalogue (London and New York: Royal Academy of Arts and Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999), no. 2, pp. 118–19, no. 12, pp. 138–9.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Haillet de Couronne, ‘Eloge de M. Chardin sur les mémoires fournis par M. Cochin’, (1780), reproduced in Georges Wildenstein, Chardin (Les Beaux-Arts: Paris, 1933), p. 42.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Philip Conisbee, Chardin (Oxford: Phaidon, 1985), p. 94.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Denis Diderot, ‘Salon de 1763’, in Jean Seznec and Jean Adhémar, eds, Diderot, Salons (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), I., p. 223 (author’s translation).Google Scholar

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© Thomas Crow 2005

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  • Thomas Crow

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