CHARDIN, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon
(b. 1699, Paris, d. 1779, Paris)

La Gouvernante (The Governess)

Oil on canvas, 47 x 38 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

There are rarely men in Chardin's domestic interiors, and where boys occur they usually require - if only by implication — to be disciplined. It is mothers and quasi-maternal women who are prominent: preparing meals and children for school or church, and for household tasks. Part of the power of the subtly-painted La Gouvernante comes from the sense of everything in it being tightly organized, both aesthetically and morally. The gouvernante (not a 'governess' in English nineteenth-century terms) admonishes the boy in a strictly private way - but the lesson for future conduct of life is clear, though unstated.