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Taking Time: Waddesdon Manor
Unlike the house of cards in Chardin’s paintings, Waddesdon Manor is unlikely to collapse; and the events planned for this jubilee year should only increase the popularity of this National Trust property, near Bicester.
The exhibition Taking Time was prompted by the purchase of Jean-Siméon Chardin’s Boy Building a House of Cards. From a distance you may wonder if you are suffering from double vision because the show features four treatments of the same subject. They are, however, four different boys focused on the same task.
All four were painted within a few years of each other, between 1735 and 1738, but are displayed together in one place for the first time. The delight is to train one’s eye to see the differences and reflect upon them. The boy’s apron in the Rothschilds’ picture suggests he was a servant. The sophisticated clothes of the boy in The National Gallery’s oil on canvas was of a named individual, the son of a close friend of the artist.
The painting from Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art was once paired with the charming Girl with a Shuttlecock, also on display.
Taking Time is an apt title for this show since taking time examining the detail brings rewards. The girl’s apron is spotless, but a delicate scattering of powder from her hair has fallen on her shoulder.
Printmakers, able to compare the paintings with prints made by different engravers, will enjoy this show. If I had to pick a favourite? For me that would be the self-portrait of the artist himself — called the great magician by Diderot.
A complementary exhibition, Playing, Learning, Flirting: Printed Board Games from 18th-century France, brings the social history of the time and place to life (until October 28).
Waddesdon, as the third most visited NT property in the country, popular with all age groups, is a pageant of the social history of our own time. You have until July 15 to see Taking Time. For details of opening times and prices go to www.waddesdon.org.uk