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An older girl and a younger child, both with pale skin, bend toward each other as they look at a book spread open on a wooden cupboard in this nearly square painting. Shown from the hips up to our right, the girl leans over the cupboard with her body facing our left in profile. She looks at the child peering over the low ledge at the back of the cupboard with her head tilted slightly in that direction. The older girl has a straight, delicate nose, her smooth cheeks are flushed, and her rosy-red lips are pursed. Her brown hair is tucked under a bright white, ruffled cap encircled with a gold and cranberry-red ribbon. The long sleeves of the muted sapphire-blue dress seem to have been rolled back along the forearms to reveal cascading, white cuffs. A translucent white neckerchief, like a short, full scarf, is tucked into an ivory-white apron that also covers the flaring skirt. With both hands on the open book, she points to one page with a metal pointer like a knitting needle. Facing us, the smaller child looks at the book from behind the wood cupboard, eyes downcast, resting one forearm on the surface and pointing to a detail in the book. The child has delicate brows, a short, wide nose, and full raspberry-red lips are closed. The padded cap the child wears covers the ears and is loosely painted with a pattern of honey brown, silvery white, and slate blue. The nutmeg-brown sleeves are pushed back along the forearm and there are white cuffs or sleeves beneath. The cupboard has two diamond-shaped, iron-gray metal pulls in front. Light illuminating the pair from our left creates a greenish glow on the tawny-brown background behind them.

Jean Siméon Chardin, The Little Schoolmistress, after 1740, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.91

Gallery Talks

The Art of Looking

The Art of Looking

Jean Siméon Chardin, The Little Schoolmistress

  • Friday, September 3, 2021
  • 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
  • Virtual Program

In the spirit of going back to school, Jean Siméon Chardin’s The Little Schoolmistress is the inspiration for this interactive conversation. Join us and share your observations, interpretations, questions, and ideas, and build on your own first impressions to broaden your understanding of this work of art. This session lasts one hour and is completely interactive. National Gallery educators will facilitate the conversation to create an environment for shared learning. These conversations will encourage you to engage deeply with art, with others, and with the world around you as you hone skills in visual literacy and perspective-taking.

This program is free and open to the public and is designed for anyone interested in talking about art. No art or art history background is required. Ages 18 and over.

Due to the interactive nature of this program, sessions are not recorded.

Live Captions

Live captions (CART) are available in some breakout rooms for this program. Please contact [email protected] to request access or for more information.