Recent Work from Sarah Cohen on Chardin and the Animal Psyche

Posted in Member News by Editor on May 12, 2010

The Ninth Annual Bloomington Eighteenth-Century Studies Workshop
Forms of Life in the Eighteenth-Century
Indiana University, Bloomington, 12-14 May 2010

Sarah Cohen speaks on Chardin’s work on Thursday, 13 May. The full schedule for this invitation event can be found here»

Jean-Siméon Chardin, "The Ray," 1728 (Paris: Louvre)

Sarah Cohen (History of Art, SUNY Albany), “Chardin’s Vitalist Still Lifes” — This paper addresses four paintings by Jean-Siméon Chardin that feature a calico cat marauding recently killed or butchered creatures within an array of objects laid out for the preparation of a human meal. Although Chardin drew generally from Flemish still life traditions, I argue that early vitalist theories of animal life offer a compelling means of assessing the action of his cats, who paw, snatch, and prepare to spring at the inanimate matter of their fallen fellow creatures. I propose that Chardin’s still lives are vitalist not through any direct link between the science and the art, but through a deeper commonality of aims and means: his cats show us, through their tactile explorations of animal
bodies, what it feels like to be alive.

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In addition, Cohen’s article, “Searching the Animal Psyche with Charles Le Brun,” will appear in a special issue of Annals of Science 76 (July 2010), dedicated to the representation of animals in the seventeenth century. The issue is edited by Domenico Bertoloni Meli and Anita Guerrini.

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