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Jean-Siméon Chardin, The House of Cards

Key facts
Full title The House of Cards (Portrait of Jean-Alexandre Le Noir)
Artist Jean-Siméon Chardin
Artist dates 1699 - 1779
Date made about 1740-1
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 60.3 × 71.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Mrs Edith Cragg, as part of the John Webb Bequest, 1925
Inventory number NG4078
Location Room 33
Collection Main Collection
The House of Cards
Jean-Siméon Chardin

A young boy stands at a small wooden table fully absorbed in building a house out of playing cards. He is Jean-Alexandre Le Noir, whose father, Jean-Jacques Le Noir, was a furniture dealer and cabinet-maker, who commissioned several paintings from Chardin.

The theme of a child building a house of cards was a familiar one in which the delicately balanced cards represent the fragile nature of human endeavour. Pictures of this subject were often accompanied by moralising verses, as was Chardin’s painting when it was engraved. But there may also be a family connection. As a maker of fine furniture, Monsieur Le Noir may have hoped his son would follow him into the business. The boy’s card building is perhaps not just a game but may also be an exercise in sound methods of construction.

The picture is one of four identified versions of The House of Cards painted by Chardin.

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