Historically, Jean-Siméon Chardin’s The Kitchen Maid and Return from the Market have been characterized as austere images of middle-class virtue. However, the engravings made after these paintings include verses that place the paintings within the satirical tradition. Thus, there is a misalignment between the canonical interpretation of Chardin’s kitchen maids as virtuous and the satirical understanding of these paintings. I reconcile these two contradictory interpretations by offering a feminist reinterpretation of Chardin’s The Kitchen Maid and Return from the Market, juxtaposing the prints and their satirical verses and considering the female viewer. In my analysis, I focus on small, disquieting details that seem to be out of place in Chardin’s œuvre, the effect of stopped time within these paintings, and the women’s expressions. From these details, I argue that Chardin’s women are neither the one-dimensional figures of domestic bliss nor the comedic stereotype, but rather women with agency, offering a feminist reinterpretation of these canonical works.
Chardin, kitchen maid, The Kitchen Maid, Return from the Market, print, print culture, servant, maid
"Taking Chardin's Kitchen Maids Seriously,"
ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830: Vol.12: Iss.2, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/abo/vol12/iss2/2