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Jean-Siméon Chardin, The Young Schoolmistress

Key facts
Full title The Young Schoolmistress
Artist Jean-Siméon Chardin
Artist dates 1699 - 1779
Date made about 1737
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 61.6 × 66.7 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Mrs Edith Cragg, as part of the John Webb Bequest, 1925
Inventory number NG4077
Location Room 33
Collection Main Collection
The Young Schoolmistress
Jean-Siméon Chardin

A young child is being taught by an older girl, perhaps in her early teens, who is possibly an elder sister or another relation such as a cousin. Despite the picture’s title, this is a private lesson, probably taking place at home rather than at school. The younger child is most likely a boy, although we cannot be entirely sure.

The children appear to be from a middle-class family, which is well provided for but not ostentatiously wealthy. They belong, perhaps, to the growing French bourgeoisie that particularly admired Chardin’s pictures, which they often knew and owned as engravings of the original paintings. This class particularly valued education, especially literacy, which was no longer confined to the nobility and professional classes.

Although Chardin is extolling work and study over playful time-wasting, any moralising purpose to his painting is very understated. Instead, his attention is on a quiet moment of interaction between two individuals.

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