Waddesdon Manor unites four versions of Boy building a House of Cards by Chardin

By Mark Sheerin | 16 March 2012
Oil painting of an adolescent boy building a house of cards
Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Boy building a House of Cards, 1735; Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (Rothschild Family Trusts). Photography: Mike Fear© The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Taking Time: Chardin’s Boy building a House of Cards and Other Paintings, Waddesdon Manor, nr Aylesbury, March 28 – Julky15 2012

A small exhibition of works by Chardin will always be nonetheless an important one. The French painter only produced 200 pictures, which makes those in the care of the Rothschilds a significant proportion of his entire oeuvre.

In fact, the family’s enthusiasm for the French master led to amassing more than 30 works by 1931. More recently they acquired Boy building a House of Cards, the impetus for this show.

Evidence of the pull of the Rothschild Collection can be gauged from the list of institutions lining up to loan work to this show. Three alternative versions of the exhibition's eponymous painting are on their way from the Louvre, and both the National Galleries of London and Washington.

While most French painters were staging pages from history or off on rococo flights of fancy, Chardin used the 18th century to build a reputation for simple realism. The innocent boy at play with a pack of cards is a good example of his no frills genre work.

The Rothschilds were not his only admirers. Cézanne and Manet were also fans. But it may be thanks to the appreciation of these pre-eminent collectors that the art world rediscovered Chardin in the 19th century. Could the same be said for them in the 21st?
  • Admission £17 (£13). Open 11am-4pm Weekends and Bank Holidays
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