Jean-Siméon Chardin

French, 1699–1779

The Scullery Maid

1738

oil on canvas
18 1/2 x 15 inches

William A. Clark Collection

26.39

This modestly dressed young woman, in a long skirt, apron, and cap, has stopped scrubbing the long-handled saucepan she holds. She is momentarily distracted from her work and lost in thought. The introspective mood of the painting is conveyed not only by the figure but also by Chardin’s soft brushwork, gently rhyming forms, and harmonious but subdued palette. The artist neither glorifies nor sentimentalizes her labor, choosing instead to portray her with a quiet dignity.

Chardin often made more than one version of a composition, and the Clark Collection Scullery Maid is one of three renditions of this subject. A version belongs to the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow, and it has a pendant, Kitchen Boy, which represents a young servant about the same age as the scullery maid, also resting from his work. Paired, the servants make a charming couple and seem to dream of one another. A pendant to the Corcoran’s painting may also have existed, but if so, its location is not known.