(b. 1699, Paris, d. 1779, Paris)
Oil on canvas, 114 x 146 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
The painting is one of the artist's diploma pieces, on the occasion of his reception into the Académie royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1728.
Artists who were not members of the Académie, and who therefore could not exhibit their work in the Salon, took part once a year in what was known as the 'Salon de Jeunesse', held on the feast of Corpus Christi in the open air, in the Place Dauphine, and lasting two hours. On 3 June 1728 Chardin exhibited several pictures there, including The Ray and The Buffet. Some academicians who saw the work persuaded Chardin to present himself for membership of the Académie royale; on 25 September of the same year, contrary to the usual practice, Chardin was accepted and admitted on one and the same day. The Académie did not insist on a picture specially painted for the occasion, as was usually the case, but retained The Ray and The Buffet as his diploma pieces. It is related that the artist had deceived several academicians, among them Largilliere and Cazes, by showing them some of his still-life paintings which they took for Flemish works. Certainly, the source of inspiration is obvious in The Ray, which surpasses the best work of Jan Fyt.
The rich quality of the paint surface, which is in perfect condition, has been revealed by the recent cleaning of the varnish. The picture is exceptionally well preserved for a work by Chardin; his paintings often suffered from too heavy a use of oil with his pigment. Perhaps this one owes its good condition to the fact that it dates from his early days, when he was applying himself to improving his technique by creating a chef-d'oeuvre carefully executed according to the best principles of true craftsmanship. Later, he trusted too much to his inspiration, and yielded to his passion for worked-up impasto.