We continue our look at #Vanitas with another work of art by Jean Siméon Chardin, “Soap Bubbles.” Have you ever seen this work of art before? What is the first thing you notice?
“Soap Bubbles” is Chardin's earliest work to include human figures. In this painting, a boy concentrates his full attention on a quivering bubble, which seems ready to slip from his pipe. For the 18th-century viewer, bubbles were not only a form of entertainment, but also symbols of the transience of life. “Homo bulla,” a Latin metaphor translating “man as a beautiful but exquisitely delicate and transient bubble,” dates back to the ancient author Varro. What meaning do you think Chardin meant to impart through this work of art? Was he referencing themes of vanitas?
Chardin painted this subject multiple times. Here is “Soap Bubbles” from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: http://bit.ly/1MTTVuh, and here it is again, in a version from LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art: http://bit.ly/1MiwZ7v. Do you see any differences?#ArtAtoZ
Jean Siméon Chardin, “Soap Bubbles,” probably 1733/1734, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mrs. John W. Simpson, 1942.5.1