Every so often I find myself in a (self-orchestrated) situation when trying to expand my horizons and broaden my knowledge base, I find myself so completely out of my depth and comfort zone that I question any ability I may have in carving out even a small niche in academia – maybe I’m just not intellectual enough, just not articulate enough. When two of the papers presented on this study day (or colloquium in Waddesdon speak) were in French and no one in the audience raised an eyelid, in fact the majority of them obviously spoke the language fluently as they laughed at humorous moments or indicated in French certain aspects of the talk, it was no wonder my Eliza Doolittle complex reared its ugly head in such esteemed company, I’m so downstairs to their upstairs!
So why Chardin? Why Waddesdon Manor? I have always admired Chardin’s exquisite paintings of eighteenth century domestic interiors, so precise and controlled and evoking a world far removed from anything I would normally have the time to study in any depth. Waddesdon Manor is well known to me and I have visited on many occasions, so discovering this study day to mark the end of its exhibition of a number of Chardin paintings to celebrate its recent purchase of Boy Building A House of Cards (1735) seemed a perfect opportunity to find out more on the artist and compare and contrast various presentation strategies and areas of specific research of the speakers.
The very high calibre of speakers was enthusiastically received by the suited and booted audience of Chardin enthusiasts. I learned the most from Colin Bailey’s (Deputy Director of The Frick Collection, New York) paper Upstairs/Downstairs: Dress, Status and the Imaginary in Chardin’s Genre Paintings and Emma Barker’s (Senior Lecturer in Art History, The Open University) Chardin’s Images of Women: Representing Domesticity. Unfortunately despite the presence of renowned experts René Démoris and Charlotte Guichard, as these were the papers given in French, their content will remain a mystery to me.
In any event, this was still a wonderful day, in a wonderful setting, seeing a world of upper echelon academics whose ranks I will never join, but who fascinate me nevertheless.