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The Ray

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

French painting

Rives Todd

This early masterpiece by Chardin was immediately judged worthy of the finest Flemish examples (Snyders, Fyt). In The Ray, “this strange monster”, Proust admired “the beauty of its vast and delicate structure, tinted with red blood, blue nerves and white muscles, like the nave of a polychromatic cathedral”.

A “false” still life

Placed in contrast to the cauldron and pitcher — inert accessories at the right — to the left appears the tense and strange figure of a kitten, fur raised, seemingly frightened by a scene taking place outside of the painting. The skinned ray, evocative of Rembrandt’s Slaughtered Ox, with the odd assortment of objects arranged around it, was a source of astonishment to all painters — even as far as Matisse — for the riveting power of the animal’s vacant and ghostly gaze. The realism of the different elements of this false still life has forever served as a model to artists.

A reception piece

Chardin’s reception piece to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1728, The Ray, with its companion piece The Buffet, marks the beginning of the artist’s professional career. The painting remained in the collections of the Academy, before entering, during the French Revolution in 1793, the Muséum Central des Arts, which would later become the Louvre.

Technical description

  • Jean-Siméon CHARDIN (Paris, 1699 - Paris, 1779)

    The Ray

    about 1725- 1726

  • H. : 1,14 m. ; L. : 1,46 m.

  • Pendant to the painting The Buffet

    INV. 3197

  • Paintings

    Sully wing
    2nd floor
    The painters of Louis XV
    Room 919

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