Wednesday, February 2, 2011
An Analysis of Chardin's "The White Tablecloth"
With three larger objects, the tablecloth,table and drink cooler Chardin sets up the major shapes within the painting. His viewpoint renders what are circles into ovals. The dominant shape in the composition is an oval and Chardin manipulates the smaller objects to produce as many ovals as possible. The cut bread, one wine upright the other glass on its side, the sausage cut and placed in three ways, the lifted lid on the ceramic jug, the plate (here metal not ceramic to give variations of grey).
The smaller objects also "echo" the relationships throughout the composition. For example the ceramic jug in the drink cooler echos the relationship of tablecloth to the table. Similarly the cut bread exposing the white under the brown crust.
The placement and arrangement of objects coupled with the direction of light (as if through an open door) produces an ascending and descending rhythm within the composition. The smaller drink cooler against the larger table. The bottom edge of the tablecloth runs upward, the bread placed over the edge of the plate and also slightly higher than the far edge of the table. Against these ascending/descending rhythms Chardin places the knife and bottom of the wine glass on its side pushing into the space for balance. These minor variations also occur in objects placed in the drink cooler with the neck of the far bottle appearing over the rim of the cooler with the open lid of the ceramic jug as a kind stop that echos the the knife and wine glass.
The overall effect is as if two people had just left the room after a basic meal of bread,wine and sausage but through his understanding of painting Chardin invests the scene with intelligence and feeling far beyond its apparent simplicity.