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Artists’ Things: Rediscovering Lost Property from Eighteenth-Century France

Katie Scott and Hannah Williams 

Histories of artists’ personal possessions shed new light on the lives of their owners.

Artists are makers of things. Yet it is a measure of the disembodied manner in which we generally think about artists that we rarely consider the everyday items they own. This innovative book looks at objects that once belonged to artists, revealing not only the fabric of the eighteenth-century art world in France but also unfamiliar—and sometimes unexpected—insights into the individuals who populated it, including Jean-Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, and Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun.

From the curious to the mundane, from the useful to the symbolic, these items have one thing in common: they have all been eclipsed from historical view. Some of the objects still exist, like Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s color box and Jacques-Louis David’s table. Others survive only in paintings, such as Jean-Siméon Chardin’s cistern in his Copper Drinking Fountain, or in documents, like François Lemoyne’s sword, the instrument of his suicide. Several were literally lost, including pastelist Jean-Baptiste Perronneau’s pencil case. In this fascinating book, the authors engage with fundamental historical debates about production, consumption, and sociability through the lens of material goods owned by artists. 

The free online edition of this open-access publication is available at and includes zoomable illustrations. Free PDF and EPUB downloads of the book are also available.  

Katie Scott is professor of the history of art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Hannah Williams is senior lecturer in the history of art at Queen Mary University of London.

“This is a fascinating book, that wrangles the debates of production, consumption and social place across time, through the lens of material goods owned by artists.”
—Gina Fairley, ARTShub

“Gives new life to the quotidian.”
—Lakshmi Rivera Amin, Hyperallergic

374 pages
7 x 10 inches
140 color and 50 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-863-2

Getty Publications
Imprint: Getty Research Institute