The Chardin works commissioned for Bellevue join the Louvre

9/8/10 – Acquisitions – Paris, Musee du Louvre – Thanks to the Amis du Louvre and the generosity of Eudoxe Marcille’s heirs, two masterpieces by Jean-Simeon Chardin [1] (ill. 1 and 2), commissioned to hang over the doors in the chateau of Bellevue and exhibited at the Salon of 1767 where they were highly praised by Diderot, will now join the Louvre.

1. Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779)
The Attributes of Civil Music, 1767
Oil on canvas - 112 x 144.5 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Musée du Louvre

2. Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779)
The Attributes of War Music, 1767
Oil on canvas - 112 x 144.5 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Musée du Louvre

Built for Madame de Pompadour, Bellevue was remodeled after her death [2]. Charles-Nicolas Cochin, who was in charge of the decorating, wrote on 15 July 1766 [3] : “The music room seems to me to call for something in keeping with its purpose. This is why I think it would be appropriately decorated with two works over the doors by M. Chardin. This artist achieves a degree of perfection which is unique in its scale.”
During the Revolution the canvases disappeared but then resurfaced at an auction in 1853 when they were acquired by the collector Francois Marcille. He later bequeathed them to his son Eudoxe in whose family they remained until now.

These two paintings join others at the Louvre by the same artist : The Attributes of Art and The Attributes of Music, painted to hang over the doors at the chateau de Choisy and dated one year earlier (1765). They are of similar size and with the one at the Hermitageexecuted in 1766 for the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg, make up a unified ensemble which Pierre Rosenberg compared to those painted in the early 1730’s for Count Rothenbourg (two reside at the Musee Jacquemart-Andre [4], two others also belong to Eudoxe Marcille’s heirs [5]) : “No longer the sumptuous and sometimes chaotic richness of the first canvases, the unbridled lyricism ; this is now replaced by a Cubist’s rigor, a sense of harmony, a perfectly mastered process of the theory of allusions. But Chardin’s greatness consists in never abdicating to the imperatives of the spot where his canvas will hang, the final destination of his creation. He never slides into the decorative, never succumbs to decorating. In fact, Chardin was never a better painter than when he had to execute these commissions.”

Didier Rykner, lundi 9 août 2010


[1] We should recall that his first name is not Jean-Baptiste Simeon, but Jean-Simeon, as was often written during his lifetime and even today – including this website in previous articles.

[2] As kindly pointed out to us by Gerard Mabille, Bellevue was sold to Louis XV by Madame de Pompadour in 1757. It was only in 1774, after the death of Louis XV, that Louis XVI turned the chateau over to his aunts, Mesdames, the daughters of Louis XV.

[3] Quoted in the catalogue for the Chardin exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1979, p. 347.

[4] The Attributes of Science and The Attributes of Art, no. 29 and no. 30 of the 1979 catalogue, pp. 149-152.

[5] Instruments of Music and Parrot and Instruments of Music and Fruit Basket, no. 27 and no. 28 of the 1979 catalogue, pp. 146-149.

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