There is something extraordinary about this modest white, bulbous taproot that comes in various sizes, the small tender ones destined for human consumption and their larger cousins that feed livestock. Whether they are called rutabaga or neeps, they are rich in vitamin C, low in calories, and have the additional nutritional benefits of fiber and even protein.
Turnips have an illustrious past, with origins of domestication dating back to the 15th century BCE. This lowly root graced the tables in Hellenistic and Roman times.
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin celebrated the turnip in his vivid painting, “Women Cleaning Turnips.” There is a calm diligence in the woman’s bearing as if she is considering the full extent of her meal preparation. The large quantity of turnips resting at her feet signal the task at hand is far from finished and that there would be a large gathering at meal time. The table and cooking accessories are her only helpers. It appears she is content to be alone with her thoughts.
ChasingART is celebrating Jean-Baptiste-Siméon‘s birthday today. He was born in Paris in 1699, the son of a cabinetmaker. He may have come from humble circumstances, but his fate was to become Louis XV’s “Premier peintre du roi” with a pension of 1500 livres.
In life, there are serendipitous events that thrust us into divergent pathways. So it was with Jean-Baptiste-Siméon when he exhibited a painting at the Place Dauphine, located close to the famous Pont Neuf. Jean-Baptiste van Loo , a well-known French subject and portrait painter happened to pass by and was intrigued. Not only did he buy the painting, but he assisted the young man who shared his name, Jean-Baptiste.
What I most admire about the “Woman Cleaning Turnips” is the respect, even reverence, that Jean-Baptiste-Siméon gave to day-to day life. Working slowly, he bestowed the same meticulous attention to all of his paintings. During his lifetime which spanned 80 years, he created approximately 200 paintings.
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin influenced many others who followed him, including Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Chaim Soutine, Georges Braque, Georgia Morandi and Lucian Freud.