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Stories For Children, Histories of Childhood / Histoires d'enfant, histoires d'enfance. Tome II

 | 
Rosie Findlay
, 
Sébastien Salbayre

The Art of Imagining Childhood in the Eighteenth Century

Jennifer Milam

Résumé

The Art of Imagining Childhood in the Eighteenth Century
Pablo Picasso once said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after growing up.” Such a connection made between childhood and creativity is so common place that we often forget it is a cultural construction. Only in a rare moment while thinking about the ‘natural’ creativity of the child do we stop to consider the point in history when this notion first developed and the manner by which it became widely accepted. Anyone who has read Philippe Ariès
Centuries of Childhood recognizes the argument that the child was "discovered", or more correctly "rediscovered", during the Enlightenment, and that the progressive pedagogical philosophies of Locke and Rousseau are representative of this new concern for children and their world. What has yet to be fully considered is the impact that the visual arts had on this discernment of creative impulses in the state of childhood, earlier than might be expected, in the image of the eighteenth-century child. This paper considers Rococo representations of children playing and how these images contributed to the Enlightenment "discovery" of the child.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Quoted in Discovering Child Art. Essays on Childhood, Primitivism and Modernism, ed. Jonathan Fineb (...)
  • 2 Philippe Ariès, Century of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life, trans. Robert Baldick (New Y (...)

1Pablo Picasso said, ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after growing up.’1 Today, the connection between childhood and creativity is so commonplace that we often forget it is a cultural construction. Only in a rare moment while thinking about the ‘natural’ creativity of the child do we stop to consider the point in history when this notion first developed and the manner by which it became widely accepted. Anyone who has read Philippe Ariès’ Centuries of Childhood recognises the argument that the child was ‘discovered’, or more correctly invented, during the Enlightenment, and that the progressive pedagogical philosophies of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are representative of this new concern for children and their world.2 What has yet to be fully considered is the impact that the visual arts had on this discernment of creative impulses in the state of childhood, earlier than might be expected, in the image of the eighteenth-century child.

  • 3 Charles Baudelaire, Morale du joujou in Oeuvres complètes (Bruges: Éditions Gallimard, 1961).
  • 4 See Larry Wolff, ‘When I Imagine a Child: The Idea of Childhood and the Philosophy of Memory in the (...)
  • 5 Cited by Wolff, ‘When I Imagine a Child’, p. 388.
  • 6 Ibid.

2Romanticism is largely credited with finding creative inspiration in the child, or at least in the memory of childhood. Later in the nineteenth century, Charles Baudelaire claimed an even closer connection between children’s play and artistic production. In his Morale de joujou (1853), he maintained that a toy was the child’s first introduction to art.3 It was Rousseau’s theories of the mideighteenth century, however, that paved the way for nineteenthcentury artists and writers to re-evaluate the child’s capacity for imagination, in effect establishing a more direct connection between creative impulses and the mind of the child.4 Rousseau linked the potential success of Emile (his treatise on education) and his ability to invent the child that gives his book its title to the felicitous remembrances of childhood that would inform his writing: ‘To do this book well, I must do it with pleasure.’5 The enjoyable imagining of a state of childhood (constructed through the fictional child, Emile) would guarantee a successful aesthetic experience for both the author and the reader. Moreover, it was in his imaginative reliving of life via the conjured image of the child that Rousseau, by his own account, derived the creative impulses necessary to convey effectively his theories on education and understanding.6 While Rousseau was too greatly influenced by the empirical philosophy of his age to endow the child with artistic power, then thought to derive from the faculty of the imagination not yet developed in children, he would have had a solution for Picasso. ‘After growing up’, the philosophe might have proposed to the Cubist, ‘a man remains an artist by imagining himself as a child once again’.

  • 7 A most insightful study of this very point is Anne Higgonet, Pictures of Innocence. The History and (...)

3What this paper adds to recent reassessments of the idea of childhood during the eighteenth century is the manner by which a particular mode of representing the child with paint similarly encouraged the perception of creative impulses in a new construction of childhood, whereby the roots of adult imagination lay in the memory of pure sensations that only a child could feel. It is less concerned with how childhood is depicted than in with an exploration of the adult viewer’s experience in beholding the image of the child. Reading images of children as historical documents that reveal the status of the child is problematic. Paintings do not simply reflect the treatment, existence and habits of children. Instead they offer an adult’s perspective on childhood (namely that of the artist) and a particular interest in the visual appeal of children.7 Moreover, artists like Nicolas Lancret, Jean-Siméon Chardin, and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, who had a sustained interest in using childhood subjects over many years, demonstrate through the evidence of their works that this pursuit was connected to something that these subjects had to offer in terms of understanding processes of perception, and thereby were well suited to the pursuit of art making.

PLAY AND THE VISUAL INVENTION OF CHILDHOOD

  • 8 Burton, ‘Looking forward from Ariès?’, op. cit., p. 217-18. See also Gregory Stone, ‘The Play of Li (...)
  • 9 For a more detailed description of the psychological implications of excitement, see Harvie Ferguso (...)

4A culture of play permeated all segments of society in eighteenth-century France, with little on the surface to distinguish the games of children from those enjoyed by adults. Nevertheless, there were divergent consequences of play for different age groups.8 Adult play temporarily released adult players from the behavioural demands and boredom of everyday life. Rules of decorum were relaxed, enabling feelings of excitement and the fulfilment of a nostalgic wish for the relative freedom of their childhood when control over the body and behaviour were not as yet imprinted on the self. Adult members of elite society at play were liberated from the courtly presence by which they were defined. They were able to reexperience the limitless possibilities of fun.9

  • 10 According to Maintenon, play prepared children for social interaction and service to the great: Eh (...)

5During childhood these same games encouraged the child to imitate adult culture and to assimilate the codes of behaviour that their full-grown counterparts were attempting to escape. Writers on education who focused on the preparation of girls for life at court, like Madame de Maintenon, believed that games were good for children specifically because they would need to play as adults.10

  • 11 ‘Il faut bien qu’elles jouent... et qu’elles se divertissent à tous les jeux d’usage parmi les enfa (...)
  • 12 Maintenon emphasises this connection when she reminds the girls (aged 10-13) that expectations of c (...)
  • 13 Mark Motley, Becoming a French Aristocrat. The Education of the Court Nobility 1580-1715 (Princeton (...)

6Maintenon, however, did not encourage indiscriminate play. On the contrary, the child needed to be taught that amusements were appropriate to specific times and places and that improper behaviour must always be controlled.11 Teaching children to manage their desire for amusement and to monitor their own conduct was an important part of their preparations for entering society.12 This emphasis on developing control over the self, rather than an experience of physical release, was a fundamental pedagogical aspect of children’s introduction to the social play of an adult world. In addition, the occasional inclusion of children in the leisure and playtime of adult society was a necessary component of their education.13

Figures 1: Lancret, Blindman’s buff, c1728

  • 14 For examples, see Watteau’s Assembly in a park (Paris, Musée du Louvre), Les Champs-Elisées (London (...)

7Nicolas Lancret’s blindman’s buff pictures invite beholders to observe this process of social introduction and assimilation in action, with a maternal figure directing the child’s attention to the lessons of adult life unfolding in the game, not least of which is the control over the body exhibited by the central players [figure 1], A social education based on inclusion and absorption into adult culture has a long visual history. There was nothing unusual about this idea at the time that Lancret was painting in the 1730s. Jean-Antoine Watteau regularly included children in his depictions of fêtes galantes, although they are largely ignored by the adult figures.14 The pedagogically progressive aspect of Lancret’s paintings is that the child is now the focus of attention for at least one adult within the scene. This mother or governess instructs the girl through the visual example of others. The actions of this figure effectively and necessarily redirect the beholder’s thoughts towards the girl and the particular means by which she will learn adult comportment. Lancret’s inclusion of this pedagogical vignette is not simply an acknowledgment of the importance of visual models of behaviour for a child. It also establishes an essential mimetic parallel for the adult viewer outside the frame. In effect, art produces an ideal example of courtly comportment for both painted and real beholders, young or old.

Figure 2: Lancret, The cup of hot chocolate, c1742

  • 15 Studies by Mary Tavener Holmes and Dorothy Johnson have shown that pictures of children at play are (...)

8In the 1740s, Lancret again connected the mimetic play of childhood with processes of social induction in The cup of hot chocolate [figure 2].15 A family portrait, it claims to represent a moment taken from daily life. Hot chocolate, an expensive confection presented in elegant china cups and silver pots, is pictured as an adult pleasure that the little girl is introduced to by her parents. Their expressions react to what appears to be the youngest child’s first taste of a delicacy. A doll lies face down on the right side of the canvas, opposite to and contrasting with the action of the figures on the left. This is a toy of childhood discarded as the young girl learns about the manners and habits of an adult world. Not simply an object that defines an activity appropriate to the girl’s age, however, the doll wears the same colours as the mother in the scene. The dress of the doll identifies the toy as an instrument through which the child has played at being an adult, in this case, her mother. Since it is the mother who helps this girl learn how to drink chocolate socially, the beholder realises that mimetic play has prepared the girl for’real’participation in an adult world.

  • 16 Johnson, ‘Picturing Pedagogy’, op. cit., passim.

9The invention of childhood as an independent state of being affected pedagogical philosophy and practices. It also impacted the relationship between mimetic play and visual instruction for an adult. As Dorothy Johnson has shown, the writings of Fénelon and Locke stimulated Chardin’s interest in depicting the child specifically because the subject began to involve ideas about how concentration should be taught.16 This thematic concern combined with Chardin’s working methods, which were suitably meticulous and minutely focused. For instance, in his Young schoolmistress [figure 3], a young woman teaches reading through practice and example, following liberal educational theories, while the child concentrates on learning. In tandem with the subject, Chardin’s style describes patience and demands focus, causing the beholder to mimic the child’s concentration and to experience progressive pedagogy in painted form.

Figure 3: Engraving after Chardin, Young schoolmistress

  • 17 A sales catalogue from 1786 refers to the pedagogical lessons performed by the dogs: ‘une jeune fil (...)
  • 18 Cf. Barker’s analysis of this image as a satirical comment on the educational theories of Locke, He (...)

10Rather than picturing pedagogical process, Fragonard’s Education does it all [figure 4] turns the theme of education into imaginative play. Painted around 1780, the beholder finds in this image traces of both old and new conceptions of the child’s learning process, namely as it could be initiated through mimicry and playful performance. These children amuse themselves with the fictitious training of two lapdogs.17 They dress up the animals with a hat, a cape, and a sceptre (made from a stalk of com) and then instruct them to stand properly. Paws up at attention, the dogs mime the actions of little soldiers, directed by a girl who squats in front of them. Several other children, young and old, surround the trio to watch the performance. Fragonard’s representation of pet pedagogy is a perhaps a bit of a joke, a comic reference to how mini-courtiers are made.18 Even so, an essential feature of the image is the children’s engagement with a world of make-believe. Such play is a unique and central part of their daily life. An adult can participate in the fun, as the full-grown woman does at the far left, but she must do so by joining in the children’s amusements, rather than the other way around. A significant change has taken place. An image that mixes children with adults no longer emphasises the need for a child to abandon a world of make-believe in order to enter a world of adult sociability, as the girl discards her doll in Lancret’s Cup of hot chocolate. Any need for abandonment is placed squarely with the grown up.

Figure 4: Fragonard, Education does it all, cl 780

  • 19 Aubert sales catalogue, no. 74. Quoted in Pierre Rosenberg, Fragonard (New York: Metropolitan Museu (...)

11Fragonard’s Little preacher [figure 4], the pendant to Education does it all, similarly depicts adults who focus on the child at play, but again, they are included less as pedagogical observers than as participants. When the painting was sold in 1786, the author of the Aubert collection sale catalogue described the child as ‘delivering a little sermon with an air of charming gravity; a man, who seems to be his father prompts him so that he will not make any mistakes; the grandmother, grandfather, mother, and two other small children make up the group of spectators at the left who observe with interest this simple and engaging scene.’19 Read as two generations of family members, these adults urge on an imitative performance, which is only remotely related to pedagogical practice and social assimilation. The pose and expressions of these figures are active and involved: the grandmother on her knees bends toward the little orator, while the father leans in and supports the child from behind. But this man does not appear as the patient educator Chardin pictured in The young schoolmistress. Instead, script in hand, lips parted, he is energetically anticipating the child’s speech. For a moment, he becomes the child, demonstrating to the beholder how the pleasurable experiences of childhood might be recalled, rather than simply observed.

Figure 5: Fragonard, Little preacher, c1780

  • 20 Rosenberg, Fragonard, p. 464 and p. 466.

12In Education does it all and The little preacher, Fragonard positioned adult figures as if they were fellow children playing along. Adults participate in the child’s creative fantasy and consequently become like children once again. Pierre Rosenberg and others find these pendants to be direct evidence of both Fragonard’s fascination with children and the diverting aims of his art;20 but why Fragonard had this interest in childhood at all and what it can tell us about his approach to art making has not yet been explored. Fragonard’s depictions of children at play share a common thread. They all include at least one child intensely engaged in an activity that is enhanced by imaginative involvement (by pretending that dogs are like soldiers, or by attributing life-like qualities to a doll, or by acting like a mute clown). It is questionable, however, whether or not contemporary beholders would have thought the child was capable of possessing a faculty of imagination, largely because sensationist philosophy maintained that complex ideas could not be produced by children due to their relative lack of experience. Whether or not a child’s imagination was perceived, such scenes focus the imaginative powers of the adult beholder on the child’s ability to be entertained by a world of make-believe.

  • 21 ‘Ce n’est pas qu’il faille se mettre beaucoup en peine pour leur procurer des plaisirs: ils en inve (...)
  • 22 Rousseau, Émile in Oeuvres complètes (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1959-69), vol. 4, Book 2; Genlis, (...)

13On one level, Fragonard’s pictorial practice relates to contemporary pedagogical theories that encouraged parents and educators to allow children to create their own diversions. Moreover, it was thought that through playful fantasy children might discover and reveal their ‘natural’ passions. Several educators recognised the child’s ability to invent amusements and to reinvent their very existence through play. Charles Rollin, for example, advised in his treatise De la manière d’enseigner et d’étudier les belles lettres, par raport à l’esprit & au coeur (1726-8) that pleasures should not be procured for children because ‘they invent enough themselves’.21 Half a century later Rousseau’s Emile devises games and makes his own toys, while Madame Genlis’charges (both real and fictional) show a fondness for make-believe play at ‘visiting’and ‘prisonbars’.22 On another level, however, Fragonard’s artistic preoccupation with children playing at activities that require creative invention relates to ludic patterns of art making and viewing. In this way, his engagement with the theme of childhood parallels that of Chardin. Both artists pursued thematic connections between children, pedagogy, and visual creativity. Fragonard’s images grant beholders an opportunity to feign the condition of childhood imaginings and sensations in order to exercise their own imaginations, an experience that is quite different from Chardin’s emphasis on intense and controlled absorption.

  • 23 Katie Scott has discussed these images as marker of liminality. See her ‘Child’s Play’, p. 90-103.
  • 24 Consider the following works by Chardin as examples: Game of Knucklebones (c. 1734, The Baltimore M (...)
  • 25 John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). See also ‘An Essay (...)

14The cultural conception of childhood during the first decades of the eighteenth century did not allow for the possibility that the mind of the child might have its own way of perceiving and understanding the world, although a new focusing of attention on children had been gradually developing in France from the sixteenth century onwards. Such an interest in external observation reached its visual height in a series of pictures by Chardin dated to the 1730s.23 His paintings situate the child at play in a world of its own by disconnecting the subject from the theme of adult sociability. He tended to depict the child alone concentrating on an amusement, leading the beholder to concentrate on the individual boy or girl, rather than simply reading the child in terms of adulthood. In these compositions, the figure is isolated, absorbed in thought, and set against a blank background.24 There are no distractions or points of comparison for the viewer. All that is possible is an intense focusing on the child. In this way, Chardin’s paintings are the pictorial equivalent of pedagogical thinking that was current in the first half of the century, most notably found in the writings of Locke. In Some Thoughts Concerning Education of 1693, the English philosopher argued that the age of the child determined his ability to comprehend concepts at differing levels of complexity. Moreover, he emphasised the need for adults to observe the child’s ability to think, reflect, and learn. The ideal time to observe children was when they didn’t know they were being watched, that is, during play. Consequently, according to Locke, play needed to be incorporated into education.25

Figure 6: Engraving after Chardin, Soap bubbles

  • 26 Johnson, ‘Picturing Pedagogy’, op. cit., p. 57-9.

15Chardin’s Soap bubbles [1733/4, figure 5] concerns the child’s ability to learn from his games, specifically through amusements that have the potential to introduce the child to complex concepts – in this case, by forming the bubble from soapy water and watching it burst and disappear, the child observes the transformative qualities of matter.26 As Johnson has shown, three spectators and levels of understanding are implied by the image. On the most basic level, the smallest boy peeking out over the windowsill is interested in observing the bubble, but cannot yet grasp the process by which it is produced. The older boy blowing the bubble evidences a higher level of understanding by putting his past observations about how bubbles are made and maintained to use. Finally, the image anticipates a more sophisticated level of comprehension from the mature beholder of the painted canvas. As an adult, she should be capable of connecting the soap bubble with emblematic meaning and experience related to the transience of life.

  • 27 Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality. Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot (Chicago a (...)

16In beholding the image, the adult observes the idea that what can be gained conceptually from a single amusement (that of soap bubbles) results in different pedagogical lessons suitable to each age. The recognition of emblematic significance is beyond the reach of both children within the scene, who are nevertheless capable of perceiving other concepts appropriate to their level of understanding. Above all else, Chardin has emphasised each child’s interest in observation and learning. This is what Michael Fried has termed absorption, something signalled by the rip in the older boy’s sleeve, which the child completely ignores while concentrating intensely on the soap bubble.27 Chardin builds into the viewing process the idea that one needs to understand not only children and their education, but also the value of an activity that involves the faculty of attention.

Figure 7: Greuze, Boy with a lesson book, 1757

17Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s Boy with a lesson book [figure 6] similarly incorporates into an image of a child the efforts of concentration, in this case, efforts more specifically connected with memorization. Indeed, it seems that the subject of children intensely involved in learning and playing was a perfect vehicle for an artistic interest in absorption, no doubt because the state of childhood, more acutely observed, exposed behaviour that highlighted absorptive qualities. What developed around the middle of the eighteenth century is the perception that children were capable of becoming completely absorbed in ways that adults could not, because adults were ultimately distracted by a greater awareness of their surroundings and their place in the world. This characteristic of children is visually clarified by the absolute dedication of the child’s attention to amusement or to study without distraction.

Figure 8: C. A. P. Van Loo, Magic lantern, 1764

  • 28 Stafford found the appeal of this type of recreation to be related to a sensationist belief that th (...)
  • 29 Genlis, Adele et Thédore, Letter XI, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 54.

18The child as an instrument of absorption begins to be modified at mid-century by a new focus on the differences between the ways that children and adults experience the world. Chardin’s pictures tend to use the concentration of the child to imply a similar, but intellectually superior mode of concentration among adult viewers. Around 1760, such a stable hierarchy of vision was challenged by images that bring into question the superiority of adult perception. Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo’s Magic lantern [figure 7], for example, uses the depiction of a child wholly absorbed in a visual curiosity to cue a superior mode of beholding among adults. The children are intensely interested in looking through that hole in the box in order to see the tricks of the magic lantern, a popular device used to project images from painted transparencies inserted between a candle and the lens.28 This amusement could be used to teach as well as to amuse. In describing the ‘easy matter’ of rendering children’s play useful, Madame de Genlis recommended magic lanterns with several hundred glasses depicting historical subjects that could both divert and visually educate children four times per week.29 Such a pedagogical overtone appears in Van Loo’s painting with the inclusion of an older figure. This adult, however, looks out of the picture to address the beholder. The oval shape of the canvas is further emphasised by the painted stone sill that surrounds the figures, making the beholder aware of the visual fiction, but at the same time, causing the beholder to discern her own failure to be engrossed in the game of art as the child is absorbed by the tricks of the magic lantern. Unlike the child, the adult is too aware of the lines that divide fiction and reality to simply believe what is seen.

Figure 9: Fragonard, Cache-cache, 1758-60

  • 30 Rousseau, Emile in Oeuvres complètes, vol. 4, p. 140.

19The game in Fragonard’s Cache-cache [figure 8] similarly uses the subject of an amusement shared by adults and children to direct the beholder’s thoughts to ideas of perception. A mother is playing peek-a-boo with her child. The principal delight of this play involves the infant’s belief that if something is out of sight, it must be gone. The infant sees what he sees. He has no understanding of the fact that the mother might be behind a door and can only perceive what is in front of him. The mother’s reappearance becomes a source of visual wonder. Fragonard pictured the child’s naive sense of spatial perception and ability to be amused by a game that relies on an under-developed sense of sight and space. The subject falls back on the same notion that Rousseau asserts in Émile: ‘it is only objects which can be perceived by the senses that have any interest for children.’30 An adult beholder, in contrast, should have an interest in objects that use the senses to stimulate ideas, such as works of art.

20The children playing in Fragonard’s scenes are creatures of pure sensation depicted through an exuberant handling of paint, ink, or wash that generates a sensational response among adults. Indeed his images anticipate beholders who are mature individuals, capable of putting sensations to use in their faculties of imagination and memory. Such a dynamic engagement with the object and theme involves the beholder’s mind in the art-making experience and consequently spurs judgement into action. Visual experience thereby moves beyond sensation into the realm of perception.

  • 31 Wolff, ‘When I Imagine a Child’, op. cit., p. 382.

21One of the most significant aspects of the invention of childhood during the Enlightenment was a new awareness that the observation of the child offered unique insights to the adult onlooker. Paintings by Chardin and Greuze make those insights visually evident and encourage a use of the image of the child as a medium through which the absorptive state can be entered into by the adult beholder. While Van Loo’s and Fragonard’s paintings are also concerned with connecting the child and issues of perception, they are more appropriately connected to a cultural construction of childhood emerging after 1762, a date that assumes importance from the publication of Rousseau’s Émile. Unlike Locke’s pedagogical theories that are based on ‘external observation’ and ‘intellectual projection’ into the mind of the child, Rousseau’s theories encouraged adults to imagine the state of childhood.31

22After the publication of Émile, theories of childhood and memory began to suggest that the recollection of childhood experiences brought on feelings of joy. This type of imagining was introduced by the very example of Rousseau as author who at times in his writings supposed himself to be childlike, possessing via the spectacle of the child the perceptions, sensations, and feelings connected to childhood that were considered to be purer, simpler, and consequently more joyful than those experienced by adults. Such a route to childhood recollection is not dependent upon external processes of concentrated observation and intellectual projection (something that informs not only Lockean theory, but also Chardin’s manner of representing the play of children). Instead it relies upon the internal processes of memory in order to re-experience childhood and to garner from that experience pleasurable remembrances that could, in turn, stimulate adult creativity and self-fashioning.

FROM ABSORPTION TO IMAGINATIVE RECREATION

  • 32 Empirical philosophy, upon which Rousseau’s theories about childhood are built, maintains that the (...)
  • 33 Rousseau, Julie; Quoted in Philip Stewart, ‘The child comes of age’, Yale French Studies 40, p. 141

23Rousseau, like other eighteenth-century authors on the subject of education, did not theorise or establish an imagination for the child.32 Enlightenment pedagogues and empirical philosophers believed that the child was fully subject to impulsive sensations. Children simply reacted to what they experienced. They had not yet mastered the ability to regulate their senses. Adults had sensations too, of course, but those sensations were linked to the mental faculty of the imagination. Once developed in adulthood, the person could conjure up internal sensations (recalled through the imagination rather than impulsively felt) which Rousseau called ideas. Childhood sensations had no ideas attached to them. For this reason, Rousseau rejected the Lockean notion of intellectual projection. He believed adult experience to be too far removed from the impulsive reactions of childhood. In La Nouvelle Héloïse, for example, his virtuous mother Julie asserts that children ‘have their own ways of seeing, thinking, and feeling’ and nothing could be more ‘illogical than to try to substitute our own for them.’33 According to Rousseau, an adult used reason to control response. A child, on the other hand, was a creature of pure sensation, unable to attach judgments to what is seen and felt. Childhood was thereby perceived as a time of carefree happiness and spontaneous expression.

24While the adult could not think like a child, she could reexperience the condition of childhood, as it was defined by impulsive freedom. Rousseau specifically imagined the child in order to revisit the pleasurable experiences of that age:

  • 34 Rousseau, Émile in Oeuvres complètes, op. cit., p. 123.

When I think of a child of ten or twelve... only pleasant thoughts are called up, whether of the present or of the future. I see him keen, eager, and full of life, free from gnawing cares and painful forebodings, absorbed in this present state, and delighting in a fullness of life which seems to extend beyond himself. I look forward to a time when he will use his daily increasing sense, intelligence and vigour, those growing powers of which he continually gives fresh proof. I watch the child with delight... his eager life seems to stir my own pulses, I seem to live his life and in his vigour I renew my own.34

  • 35 Rousseau, Emile in Oeuvres complètes, op. cit., p. 122.
  • 36 Rousseau, Emile in Oeuvres complètes, op. cit., p. 166.

25What stirs Rousseau is his imagining of mental development. He did not, however, want the imagination of the adult to languish in this wholly receptive state: ‘if imagination does not lend its charm to that which touches our senses, our barren pleasure is confined to the senses alone.’35 Rousseau wanted the adult to use active judgment to connect, compare, and discriminate between relationships that could not be perceived by the senses.36 The adult therefore might imagine the state of childhood to re-experience pure sensations, but then go on to attach ideas to those sensations in a creatively useful way. An image of childhood consequently became a source of artistic potential for the adult writer, painter, reader, and beholder.

  • 37 Wolff,’When I Imagine a Child’, op. cit., passim.

26In writing Émile, as Larry Wolff has shown, Rousseau moved the pedagogical project of Enlightenment thought beyond the intense observation of real children to the philosophical creation of an imaginary child.37 Significantly, Emile is not a book for children, but a treatise about the state of childhood and what can be learned or garnered from it by adults. This is a dominant characteristic of Enlightenment attitudes towards the child, particularly among the philosophes. Most writers were less interested in children themselves than in how cognitive processes developed from birth.

27A similar argument could be made regarding the picturing of children in the visual arts during the eighteenth century. Although it is undeniable that artists and beholders began to see children in new ways, focusing on them with unprecedented enthusiasm, they were more interested in what could be gleaned from the state of childhood as a visual object than in the child as a subject capable of interacting with art. Fragonard’s painted image of the child appeals to the adult viewer’s imagination – not to that of the child. They are not paintings for children, nor to a certain extent are they paintings about children; however, they use the image of the child to picture a capacity for play and fantasy that was thought to have diminished in adulthood, in order to stimulate more spontaneous imaginative experiences, unformed by substantive knowledge, and totally engrossing. The purpose of these images was not to picture the development of a child’s imagination (although that is partly what they achieve, even before an imagination was philosophically contemplated for children). Instead, reception is anticipated in and directed toward the mind of an adult beholder, with the aim of stimulating a mature imagination through the painted image of the child.

28Fragonard’s images of children stimulate an adult response that both exercises a superior faculty of imagination and perceives the basis of that faculty in the primary undistorted sensations of a child. These scenes appear to focus on the unique insights that observing a child offered to the adult viewer, similar to that evidenced in works by Chardin. But what Fragonard’s images of childhood cue is less a superior state of absorption than one of impulsive freedom linked to a superior state of imagination. This is primarily a function of the emphasis placed on playful movement. His Little mischief maker [c. 1771-2; figure 9], for example, is made more physically active than any of the figures depicted by Chardin. The girl’s legs and arms are set in motion, something that the contrasting diagonals of the composition emphasise. At either end of her arms, in the corners of the canvas, sit the tools of her imaginative play – a Chinese figurine and a puppet. These are not dolls that are miniaturised copies of adults, like the toy abandoned by the girl in Lancret’s Cup of hot chocolate. They are instead exotic toys that require an imagination far removed from the preparation for adulthood. And yet, as with many other eighteenth-century representations of children, this depiction of a child at play has implications for the adult acts of representation and viewing. What distinguishes Fragonard’s images from earlier representations of the theme is a new requirement of visual engagement that insists upon the memory of spontaneous movement and the play of the imagination.

Figure 10: Fragonard, Little mischief maker, c 1778

  • 38 Rosenberg, Fragonard, op. cit., p. 213, cat. 148.
  • 39 An entry in Barbier’s journal from 1747 (IV: 211) mentions a popular craze in Paris for pantins, wh (...)

29Some scholars have tried to identify the figurines and furniture in The little mischief maker, only to arrive at the conclusion that they are not depictions of real objects but pastiches, inventions of the artist.38 This aspect of the painting would have been more clearly and immediately perceived by Fragonard’s contemporaries, who would have also noted that the girl’s ruff and hat are theatrical references rather than accessories that were actually worn. Moreover, the puppet refers to artistic invention and intervention in the world of toys. It was well known, for instance, that talented artists like Boucher decorated this type of doll.39 Consequently, the beholder is made aware of the fact that the artist has invented a world of imaginary objects and clothing that is attracting a child’s attention. The girl’s fascination with the toys and her active engagement with a fictional world (through her costume and play) is represented as a superior state of imaginative engagement in terms of the free enjoyment of the playful experience, but it is also shown as something that art is able to recapture for adults. In a manner that is similar to the process of prompted absorption in images by Chardin and Greuze, Fragonard’s picturing of a child’s fantasy stirs the beholder’s imaginative impulses.

  • 40 ‘Cependant un philosophe pourrait tirer parti des poupées, toutes muettes qu’elles sont: veut-il ap (...)
  • 41 ‘La poupée d’Adele ne m’est pas inutile; Adele lui répete les leçons qu’elle reçoit de moi; j’ai to (...)

30Dolls play a significant role in this process of stimulating the imagination. Long before the invention of psychoanalysis, it was readily apparent to eighteenth-century pedagogues that a doll was a tool by which the inner thoughts of a child could be elicited. For example, the Encyclopédistes contended that the child’s imaginary conversations with a doll reflect the real world. Under the entry for poupée, the author notes that a philosophe could find some use in a doll ‘as dumb as they are’: ‘If he wants to learn what happens in a household, the tone of the family, the pride of the parents, and the foolishness of the governess, it would be enough for him to listen to the child reasoning with her doll.’40 Similarly, in Adele et Thédore, Madame Genlis recounts the importance of listening in on a child’s conversations with her doll to monitor what aspects of moral instruction were getting through: ‘Adelaide repeats to her the lessons she receives from me. I pay great attention to these dialogues. If Adelaide scolds unjustly, I interfere in the conversation, and convince her she is wrong.’41 Neither the Encyclopédiste nor Genlis regarded the toy simply as an inanimate version of a miniature adult. On the contrary, they perceived the child’s ability to bring the doll to life in her own mind. Their interest, of course, is in using this toy as a pedagogical tool, to learn about the current state of the family and to teach morals. Still, the general perception of the child’s active, mental engagement with the doll – her reasoning – suggest an even more significant and early perception of the child’s imagination. This is not something that was acknowledged in eighteenth-century philosophical literature, but the actual recognition of children’s capability of possessing imaginative impulses begins with this kind of thinking. More importantly, Fragonard’s images of children playing with dolls introduce the idea of a child’s imagination into the visual representation of childhood.

31Dolls do not appear in Fragonard’s Little mischief maker, Monsieur Fanfan and The two sisters [figures 9-11] as they did in Lancret’s Cup of hot chocolate. Lancret depicted the doll as a lifeless tool with which the child has acquired an understanding of adult behaviour primarily through the mimetic model (the doll looks like her mother in miniature). In contrast, Fragonard represented dolls that require more imagination because they are not mimetic versions of real adults. The toys do not appear to assist in the process of acquiring adult manners. They are figures from an exotic land or the theatre (either as actual characters of the commedia dell’arte or as puppets). As such, they do not mirror the adult world in an everyday sense. Fragonard’s representations of dolls, puppets and even a hobbyhorse emphasise the importance of imaginative impulses needed to bring a toy to life. Of course, the doll in Lancret’s painting could conceivably be endowed with lifelike qualities; however, this idea is not stressed by the image itself. The child’s focus and the beholder’s attention are both directed towards the pleasures of adult life and social rituals. In contrast, any obvious connection with the traditions of mimetic pedagogy and learned sociability is absent. Instead his images encourage the perception of a child’s imagination through a particular manner of representing play with a toy that demonstrates the child’s ability to draw life out of an inanimate object.

Figure 11: Fragonard, Monsieur Fanfan, c. 1778

  • 42 The original painting is now lost.

32This is clearly the case with images that show a child holding or playing with a puppet. Monsieur Fanfan [figure 10] shows a toddler grasping a polchinelle to his chest, while two little dogs pull on the hair of his second doll that begins to slip from his hand.42 The pose and expression of the child convey his amusement with this attempted theft, rather than any distress. Both the dogs and the boy are running, which creates a generally active scene. Because the boy carries the toys, they are being moved. As objects, however, they are decidedly motionless. Fragonard’s composition exaggerates this contrast between movement and lifelessness. The struggle over the female doll is laid out along a strong diagonal, which is the doll’s rigid body, and leads up to the polchinelle that is slumped over in the child’s arm. Polchinelle’s head lies in the opposite direction of Fanfan’s, and it is partly this juxtaposition that suggests the doll’s potential for movement. By holding a doll that can only be played with properly if you imagine that is possesses life, the imagination of the child is brought into focus. As with several of Fragonard’s representations of children with dolls, the toy itself is obviously inanimate. It is the visible life of the child, formulated through movement and expression that effectively activates the toy.

  • 43 Arnaud Berquin, L’Ami des enfans, January 1782 - December 1783, 2 series each nos. 1-12 (Paris, Pis (...)
  • 44 Ibid.

33While Enlightenment philosophers did not envision a child’s capacity for an imaginative mental faculty, children’s literature from this period assumed an imagination for the child, one that was different from an adult’s, not as well formed, and more susceptible to invention and fantasy. Arnaud Berquin, an early writer of stories for children, made this claim in his avertissement for L’Ami des enfans (a journal circulating in the 1780s). To accomplish his double objective of both amusing children and inciting their natural virtue, he maintained that he would concentrate on adventures occurring within daily life and avoid ‘extravagant fictions and bizarre marvels’which’have for too long led their imagination(s) astray’.43 Berquin hoped to inspire sensations more appropriate for a child’s maturing passions.44 Such recognition of the differences between the imaginations and passions of adults and children should not be overlooked. It evidences an interest in the inner workings of a child’s mind.

Figure 12: Fragonard, The Two Sisters, 1770-72

  • 45 The painting has been cut down. An engraving by Géraud Vidal shows the original composition, as doe (...)

34Fragonard’s images of children at play construct a link between physical activity and the lively mind of the child (which effectively pictures the child’s capacity for imagination). The two sisters [figure 11] depicts a pair of girls playing on a hobbyhorse with a puppet brought along for the ride on the platform underneath.45 These toys require active play if they are to be enjoyed, an idea that the representation insists upon. A hobbyhorse is made to be ridden, not simply to be used as a seat. The older girl pushes the toy, her rear foot with its heel off the ground, setting the horse, the doll, and the younger girl in motion. The stiff body of the puppet, which appears artificial and lifeless, is counteracted by its staring eyes and half-open mouth (quite unlike the doll in Lancret’s picture who lies face down). This toy, momentarily discarded by the girls to ride on the hobbyhorse, waits to resume its inevitable animation at the hands of the children.

35Formally, the painting does not direct the beholder’s attention toward the toys. The hobbyhorse and the puppet are cast in shadows, while the girls are bathed in light – particularly their faces – a pictorial device that constructs a significant analogy between a child’s play with toys and an artist’s play with art. Sweeping, rapid brushwork defines the younger girl’s face, much more so than that of her sister’s, which initially draws the beholder into the image with eyes that look directly out of the canvas. From her, however, the beholder moves quickly to the second girl and the almost stylised shape of her left eye, a shape that continues with the curving strokes that create her cheekbone, eyebrow and forehead. A free handling of paint, harmonious lines, and combinations of sensual colour insist upon the fact that the artist has painted this child into existence. Both artist and child create life by activating a mimetic representation of the real world and by imaginative engagement with a fictional world. The beholder can join with the child and the artist, to play as they play, if she becomes similarly engaged with the image.

36In many ways, Fragonard’s manner of painting the child – one that induced a sensational response in order to reach the imagination of the beholder – extended from the theories of Rousseau that were widely circulating in the 1770s and 80s, paralleled the literary application of those ideas in the two generations of writers after Rousseau, and prefigured some of the links between creativity and imagination that we now associate with Romanticism. Fragonard’s contribution to the visual invention of childhood during the Enlightenment is that his paintings encouraged the beholder to use a sensational and imaginative response to become a child again, not simply to understand the child better, but to comprehend their adult self in a new way, to feel joy and happiness as a child would. In short, Fragonard’s paintings of children at play induced eighteenth-century beholders to re-experience their own childhood through the visual experience of art.

Bibliographie

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ARIÈS Philippe, Century of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life, trans. Robert Baldick (New York: Vintage Books, 1962).

BARKER Emma, Greuze and the Painting of Sentiment (Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2005).

BAUDELAIRE Charles, Morale du joujou in Oeuvres complètes (Bruges, Editions Gallimard, 1961).

BERQUIN Arnaud, L’Ami des enfans, January 1782 - December 1783, 2 series each nos. 1-12 (Paris, Pissot & Theophile Barrois: 1782); (Paris, Bureau de l’Amis des Enfans: 1783).

BURTON Anthony, ‘Looking forward from Ariès? Pictorial and material evidence for the history of childhood and family life’, Continuity and Chance 4 (2), 1989, p. 203-29.

DIDEROT Denis and D’ALEMBERT Jean (eds.), Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des metiers (Paris, 1751-80. Reprint. Stuttgart, Friedrich Frommann Verlag, 1967).

FERGUSON Harvie,’Sigmund Freud and the Pursuit of Pleasure’ in Leisure for Leisure. Critical Essays, ed. Chris Rojek (Houndsmills and London, The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1989), p. 53-74.

FINEBERG Jonathan (ed.), Discovering Child Art. Essays on Childhood, Primitivism and Modernism, (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1998).

FRANKLIN Alfred, La vie privée d’autrefois. Arts et métiers, modes, mœurs, usages des Parisiens du XIIe au XVIIIe siècle. L’enfant, la layette, la nourrice, la vie de famille, les jouets et les jeux (Paris, Librairie Plon, 1896).

FRIED Michael, Absorption and Theatricality. Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot (Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press, 1980).

GENLIS Stéphanie Félicité, comtesse de, Leçons d’une gouvernante à ses éleves, ou Fragmens d’un journal, qui a été fait pour l’éducation des enfans de Monsieur d’Orléans, 2 vols. (Paris, Onfroy et Née de la Rouchelle, 1791).

GENLIS Stéphanie Félicité, comtesse de, Adèle et Thédore, ou Lettres sur l’éducation; Contenant tous les principes relatifs aux trois différents plans d’éducation, des princes, des jeunes personnes, & des hommes, 3 vols. (Paris, M. Lambert et F. J. Baudouin, 1782).

HIGGONET Anne, Pictures of Innocence. The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood (London, Thames and Hudson, 1998).

HOLMES Mary Tavener, ‘Nicolas Lancret and Genre Themes of the Eighteenth Century’, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Institute of Fine Arts, New York, 1985.

JOHNSON Dorothy, ‘Picturing Pedagogy: Education and the Child in the Paintings of Chardin’, Eighteenth-Century Studies 24 (Fall, 1990), 47-68.

JORDANOVA Ludmilla, ‘Children in History: Concepts of Nature and Society’ in Children, Parents and Politics, ed. Geoffrey Scarre (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989)

LOCKE John, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1989).

LOCKE John, ‘An Essay Concerning Recreation’ in Peter King, The Life of John Locke with extracts from his correspondence, journals and common-place books (London, H. Colbum and R. Bentley, 1830).

MAINTENON Madame de, ‘Instruction à la classe verte. (1705)’ in Extraits de ses lettres, avis, entretiens, conversations et proverbes sur l’éducation (Paris, Librairie Hachette, 1884).

MOTLEY Mark, Becoming a French Aristocrat. The Education of the Court Nobility 1580-1715 (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1991).

POLLOCK Linda, Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500-1900 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983)

ROLLIN Charles, De la manière d’enseigner et d’étudier les belles lettres, par rapport à l’esprit & au cœur, (Paris, Jacques Estienne: 1726-8), 4 vols.

ROSENBERG Pierre, Fragonard (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987).

ROUSSEAU Jean-Jacques, Œuvres complètes, 4 vols. (Paris, Éditions Gallimard, 1959-69).

SCOTT Katie, ‘Child’s Play’ in The Age of Watteau, Chardin and Fragonard: Masterpieces of French Genre Painting, eds. Bailey Colin, Conisbee Philip and Gaehtgens Thomas (New Haven, Yale, 2003).

STAFFORD Barbara Maria, Artful Science. Enlightenment Entertainment and the Eclipse of Visual Education (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1994).

STEWART Philip, ‘The child comes of age’, Yale French Studies 40.

STONE Gregory, ‘The Play of Little Children’ in Child’s Play, eds. Herron R. E. and Sutton-Smith Brian (New York and London, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1971), 4-14.

WOLFF Larry, ‘When I Imagine a Child: The Idea of Childhood and the Philosophy of Memory in the Enlightenment,’ Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 31, no. 4 (1998), 377-401.

Notes

1 Quoted in Discovering Child Art. Essays on Childhood, Primitivism and Modernism, ed. Jonathan Fineberg (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).

2 Philippe Ariès, Century of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life, trans. Robert Baldick (New York: Vintage Books, 1962). Any reading of Ariès should be combined with later critiques of his theories. See Linda Pollock, Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); Ludmilla Jordanova ‘Children in History: Concepts of Nature and Society’ in Children, Parents and Politics, ed. Geoffrey Scarre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); and Anthony Burton in ‘Looking forward from Ariès? Pictorial and material evidence for the history of childhood and family life’, Continuity and Chance 4 (2), 1989, p. 203-29. As Jordanova has pointed out, the choice of language here (discovery vs. invention) involves a fundamental difference of historical perspectives. ‘Discovery’ implies that childhood is a fixed stage of life with boundaries clearly defined by nature for all cultures. ‘Invention’, on the other hand, foregrounds the involvement of the human mind in creating those boundaries within a particular society.

3 Charles Baudelaire, Morale du joujou in Oeuvres complètes (Bruges: Éditions Gallimard, 1961).

4 See Larry Wolff, ‘When I Imagine a Child: The Idea of Childhood and the Philosophy of Memory in the Enlightenment,’ Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 31, no. 4 (1998), p. 385.

5 Cited by Wolff, ‘When I Imagine a Child’, p. 388.

6 Ibid.

7 A most insightful study of this very point is Anne Higgonet, Pictures of Innocence. The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood (London: Thames and Hudson, 1998).

8 Burton, ‘Looking forward from Ariès?’, op. cit., p. 217-18. See also Gregory Stone, ‘The Play of Little Children’ in Child’s Play, eds. R. E. Herron and Brian Sutton-Smith (New York and London: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1971), p. 4-14.

9 For a more detailed description of the psychological implications of excitement, see Harvie Ferguson, ‘Sigmund Freud and the Pursuit of Pleasure’ in Leisure for Leisure. Critical Essays, ed. Chris Rojek (Houndsmills and London: The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1989), p. 53-74.

10 According to Maintenon, play prepared children for social interaction and service to the great: Eh bien! elles joueront à tous ces petits jeux, car on y joue partout, depuis la Cour jusqu’aux gens médiocres. Le roi d’Espagne était ravi quand il trouvait quelqu’un pour jouer avec lui. Ce sera un avantage pour vous de les savoir....’ Madame de Maintenon, ‘Instruction à la classe verte. (1705)’ in Extraits de ses lettres, avis, entretiens, conversations et proverbes sur l’éducation (Paris: Librairie Hachette, 1884).

11 ‘Il faut bien qu’elles jouent... et qu’elles se divertissent à tous les jeux d’usage parmi les enfants; mais l’on ne doit permettre à la classe que des jeux paisibles, et réserver pour le jardin tous les jeux de mouvement, ceux où il faut saut, courir, etc., et ne jamais souffrir qu’elles se pressent, se poussent, se tiraillent…..’ Maintenon, ‘Entretien avec les dames. Sur les jeux qui conviennent aux demoiselles’ (1709), Extraits, op. cit., p. 150-1.

12 Maintenon emphasises this connection when she reminds the girls (aged 10-13) that expectations of control would be much stricter in the future: ‘Vous vous plaignez d’être toujours assises; comparez cette petite contrainte avec celles que nous avons à la Cour, et assurement elle ne vous paraîtra pas digne d’être comptée.’ Maintenon, Extraits, op. cit., p. 122.

13 Mark Motley, Becoming a French Aristocrat. The Education of the Court Nobility 1580-1715 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 13 and p. 55.

14 For examples, see Watteau’s Assembly in a park (Paris, Musée du Louvre), Les Champs-Elisées (London, Wallace Collection) and Divertissements champêtres (London, Wallace Collection).

15 Studies by Mary Tavener Holmes and Dorothy Johnson have shown that pictures of children at play are strongly aligned with dominant patterns of education and perceptions of how children learn. Exploring the images of play by Lancret and Chardin respectively, each scholar has identified an interest in the habits of childhood as a means of connecting with the experience of art, specifically through play that involves mimicry or absorption. The connections between mimetic play and art making are not a direct concern of Holmes’s thesis. By identifying the character of Lancret’s depictions of children’s games, however, she exposes an artistic preoccupation with mimetic codes of behaviour. See the chapter on games in Holmes, ‘Nicolas Lancret and Genre Themes of the Eighteenth Century’ unpublished doctoral dissertation, Institute of Fine Arts, New York, 1985; and Dorothy Johnson, ‘Picturing Pedagogy: Education and the Child in the Paintings of Chardin’, Eighteenth-Century Studies 24 (Fall, 1990) p. 47-68.

16 Johnson, ‘Picturing Pedagogy’, op. cit., passim.

17 A sales catalogue from 1786 refers to the pedagogical lessons performed by the dogs: ‘une jeune fille vue par le dos en corset et juppe blanche assise sur ses talons, faisant faire l’exercice à deux chiens épagneuls, pour amuser plusieurs enfans.’ See the catalogue to the Aubert collection sale on March 2, 1786, no. 73.

18 Cf. Barker’s analysis of this image as a satirical comment on the educational theories of Locke, Helvétius and others. Emma Barker, Greuze and the Painting of Sentiment (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 137-9.

19 Aubert sales catalogue, no. 74. Quoted in Pierre Rosenberg, Fragonard (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987), p. 466.

20 Rosenberg, Fragonard, p. 464 and p. 466.

21 ‘Ce n’est pas qu’il faille se mettre beaucoup en peine pour leur procurer des plaisirs: ils en inventent assez eux-mêmes.’ Charles Rollin, De la maniere d’enseigner et d’etudier les belles lettres, par raport à l’esprit & au coeur, (Paris; Jacques Estienne: 1726-8), 4 vols., p. 507.

22 Rousseau, Émile in Oeuvres complètes (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1959-69), vol. 4, Book 2; Genlis, Leçons d’une gouvernante à ses éleves, ou Fragmens d’un journal, qui a été fait pour l’éducation des enfans de Monsieur d’Orléans (Paris: Onfroy et Née de la Rouchelle, 1791), vol. 2, p. 508; and her Adele et Thédore, ou Lettres sur l’éducation; Contenant tous les principes relatifs aux trois différents plans d’éducation, des princes, des jeunes personnes, & des hommes (Paris: M. Lambert et F. J. Baudouin, 1782), Letter XI, vol. 1, p. 56.

23 Katie Scott has discussed these images as marker of liminality. See her ‘Child’s Play’, p. 90-103.

24 Consider the following works by Chardin as examples: Game of Knucklebones (c. 1734, The Baltimore Museum); House of Cards (c. 1740, National Gallery, London); Child with a Spinning Top, (c. 1738, Louvre, Paris).

25 John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). See also ‘An Essay Concerning Recreation’ in Peter King, The Life of John Locke with extracts from his correspondence, journals and common-place books (London: H. Colburn and R. Bentley, 1830).

26 Johnson, ‘Picturing Pedagogy’, op. cit., p. 57-9.

27 Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality. Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 47-8.

28 Stafford found the appeal of this type of recreation to be related to a sensationist belief that the sense organs needed to be continually exercised. See Barbara Maria Stafford, Artful Science. Enlightenment Entertainment and the Eclipse of Visual Education (Cambridge, Mass. : The MIT Press, 1994), p. 55.

29 Genlis, Adele et Thédore, Letter XI, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 54.

30 Rousseau, Emile in Oeuvres complètes, vol. 4, p. 140.

31 Wolff, ‘When I Imagine a Child’, op. cit., p. 382.

32 Empirical philosophy, upon which Rousseau’s theories about childhood are built, maintains that the child is incapable of utilizing the mental faculty of imagination until the age of reason. See Emile in Oeuvres complètes, vol. 4, Book 2.

33 Rousseau, Julie; Quoted in Philip Stewart, ‘The child comes of age’, Yale French Studies 40, p. 141.

34 Rousseau, Émile in Oeuvres complètes, op. cit., p. 123.

35 Rousseau, Emile in Oeuvres complètes, op. cit., p. 122.

36 Rousseau, Emile in Oeuvres complètes, op. cit., p. 166.

37 Wolff,’When I Imagine a Child’, op. cit., passim.

38 Rosenberg, Fragonard, op. cit., p. 213, cat. 148.

39 An entry in Barbier’s journal from 1747 (IV: 211) mentions a popular craze in Paris for pantins, which appeared as a variety of types including characters from the Italian Comedy, pastoral figures, and a baker’s boy. See Alfred Franklin, La vie privée d’autrefois. Arts et métiers, modes, mœurs, usages des Parisiens du XIIe au XVIIIe siècle. L’enfant, la layette, la nourrice, la vie de famille, les jouets et les jeux (Paris: Librairie Plon, 1896), p. 282-3.

40 ‘Cependant un philosophe pourrait tirer parti des poupées, toutes muettes qu’elles sont: veut-il apprendre ce qui se passe dans une maison, connoître le ton d’un famille, la fierté des parens, & la sottise d’une gouvernante, il lui suffira d’entendre un enfant raisonner avec sa poupée. Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des metiers, eds. Denis Diderot and Jean d’Alembert (Stuttgart: 1966), vol., 13, p. 243-4.

41 ‘La poupée d’Adele ne m’est pas inutile; Adele lui répete les leçons qu’elle reçoit de moi; j’ai toujours une oreille attentive à ces dialogues; si Adele gronde injustement, je me mêle de la conversation, & je lui prouve qu’elle a tort: cet amusement sert aucore à la rendre adroite.’Genlis, Adele et Thédore, Lettre XI, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 56-7.

42 The original painting is now lost.

43 Arnaud Berquin, L’Ami des enfans, January 1782 - December 1783, 2 series each nos. 1-12 (Paris, Pissot & Theophile Barrois: 1782); (Paris, Bureau de l’Amis des Enfans: 1783): ‘AVERTISSEMENT. Cet ouvrage a le double objet d’amuser les enfans, et de les porter naturellement à la vertu, en ne l’offrant jamais à leurs yeux que sous les traits les plus aimables. Au lieu de ces fictions extravagantes et de ce merveilleux bizarre, dans lesquels on a si long-temps égaré leur imagination, on ne leur présente ici que des aventures dont ils peuvent être témoins chaque jour dans leur famille.’

44 Ibid.

45 The painting has been cut down. An engraving by Géraud Vidal shows the original composition, as does a copy made by the Abbé de Saint-Non, both of which are held in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Table des illustrations

Légende Figures 1: Lancret, Blindman’s buff, c1728
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 576k
Légende Figure 2: Lancret, The cup of hot chocolate, c1742
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 156k
Légende Figure 3: Engraving after Chardin, Young schoolmistress
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 248k
Légende Figure 4: Fragonard, Education does it all, cl 780
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 244k
Légende Figure 5: Fragonard, Little preacher, c1780
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 256k
Légende Figure 6: Engraving after Chardin, Soap bubbles
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 348k
Légende Figure 7: Greuze, Boy with a lesson book, 1757
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 160k
Légende Figure 8: C. A. P. Van Loo, Magic lantern, 1764
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 228k
Légende Figure 9: Fragonard, Cache-cache, 1758-60
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 224k
Légende Figure 10: Fragonard, Little mischief maker, c 1778
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 300k
Légende Figure 11: Fragonard, Monsieur Fanfan, c. 1778
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 216k
Légende Figure 12: Fragonard, The Two Sisters, 1770-72
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4954/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 227k

Auteur

University of Sydney
(PhD, Princeton University, 1996) is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Art History and Theory at the University of Sydney. She has published articles on eighteenth-century art in Art History, Eighteenth-Century Studies and The Burlington Magazine. Her monograph Fragonard’s Playful Paintings: Visual Games in Rococo Art is being published by Manchester University Press, and she co-edited the volume of essays Women, Art and the Politics of Identity in Eighteenth-Century Europe (Ashgate Press, 2003). Her current book project investigates the relationship between concepts of aesthetic play during the Enlightenment and Rococo visual culture. It is supported by funding from the Australian Research Council, the Yale Center for British Art, Columbia University Institute for Scholars at Reid Hall and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2007

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