The Chocolate Pot

The Chocolate Pot by Jean-Étienne Liotard, who is considered one of the finest pastel artists of the 18th century, is a beautiful portrait of a maid carrying a tray with a glass of water and a small porcelain pot full of chocolate. Traditionally the beverage was served as a treat following an important meal or during a holiday. The water is served with the chocolate to help dilute the bitter richness. We see her at a profile dressed in a rather nice maid’s gown suggesting her position and status with in the world of service. She appears to be going someplace but the stability and crispness of her presence suggests she is still at the moment, perhaps pausing with her tray before serving the beverage. The quality of the materials used along with the pastel techniques demonstrate the skill that Liotard had. It is possible to imagine how the dress felt to the touch, how the apron moved as she walked, and how her pink silk cap stayed fastened to her head all by studying the detail of the work. Her face expresses a sense of calm and simplicity not revealing the pandemonium that can erupt in her line of work.

The portrait is rather large size for its medium and probably would have hung in a parlor or hallway. Given that the subject is one depicting everyday life, at the time it probably would not have been the center of a collection. The piece was known to have belonged to August the Third of Poland at some time and in the late 19th century was used as a model for a series of ads for a cocoa company in the United States.