Repeat Performance: Chardin’s Aesthetics of Repetition in the Paris Salons

Ryan Whyte


This essay explores how Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin exploited the periodic nature of the Salon du Louvre and the reproductive prints and art criticism associated with it to create a discourse of originality. First, it contextualizes Chardin’s coordination and exhibition of his autograph replicas and reproductive prints to argue that he employed them to draw attention to the continued European presence and availability of his works as original repetitions. Second, it analyzes his reception to suggest that his exhibition of painted repetitions underscored his unique ability to copy himself and underlined his work’s resistance to copying by others. Third, it examines formal properties of prints after Chardin in relation to their reception to posit that these prints were received in terms of their internal visual syntax rather than the absolute formal qualities of his paintings, which paradoxically affirmed their ability to convey Chardin’s originality. The paper concludes by suggesting that Chardin’s practice demonstrates how repetition of artworks and of their documentation and commentary in print media stands at the origin of modern aesthetics, with its emphasis on the formal uniqueness of the artist’s “hand,” the originality and authenticity of the art object, and aesthetic judgment through consensus.


Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin; Jacques-Philippe Le Bas; Laurent Cars; Louis Surugue; François-Bernard Lépicié; Denis Diderot; reproductive print; Salon de Louvre; print culture; replica; copy

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