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The idle play of children was a favorite theme of Chardin, a naturalist among painters.
Here he drew inspiration from the seventeenth-century Dutch genre tradition for both the format and the subject.
It is therefore understandable that at first he was uncertain about painting the human figure, and even that he had to be teased into doing so by his friend, the portraitist Jacques Aved (1702–1766), as has been claimed. "The Rococo Age: French Masterpieces of the Eighteenth Century," October 5–December 31, 1983, no.
According to the dealer and collector Jean Pierrre Mariette, writing some fifteen years after the fact, Chardin’s first figural picture showed a head of a young man blowing bubbles and was studied from a model.
Répertoire des biens spoliés en France durant la guerre 1939–1945.
144, Oskar Reinhart collection, Winterthur) formerly in the Doucet collection.
114–15, notes that according to Mariette, Chardin's first genre subject was a "Youth blowing soap-bubbles," that "a very beautiful original" of this subject is in the collection of Jacques Doucet, and that the Goncourt brothers were familiar with another belonging to Monsieur Laperlier. "Chardin et ses oeuvres à Potsdam et à Stockholm (premiér article)." Gazette des beaux-arts 22 (1899), pp.
44, as "Deux tableaux pendans; ils représentent chacun un jeune garçon vu à mi-corps; l'un s'amuse à faire des boules de savon, & l'autre un château de cartes," canvas, 23 x 24 pouces, for Fr 95 to Dulac); ? 136, as "Les Bouteilles de savon," for Fr 300,500 [with no. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat.
Antoine Charles Dulac, Paris (1779–1801; his sale, Paillet and Delaroche, Paris, April 6, 1801, no. 135, "Le Faiseur de châteaux de cartes," for Fr 190,000]); David David-Weill, Paris (1912–at least 1933; cat., 1926, I, pp. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no.
And although the Washington picture is an upright, it does not precisely match the engraving that Pierre Filloeul (1696–after 1754) surely made in 1739 after the exhibited work, which is assumed to have gone missing. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no.
The thick brushwork of the present canvas suggests that it is the earliest of the three that survive, and all may date to 1733 or 1734.