Auction  November 14, 2023  Rebecca Schiffman

The Louvre Raises Funds to Keep Chardin Painting in France

Courtesy of ArtCurial.

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Le panier de fraises des bois

Paris’s Louvre Museum is looking for donations in its bid to acquire a still life of strawberries by French painter Jean Siméon Chardin, which was bought by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas at an Artcurial auction in March 2022 for a record-breaking €24.4 million ($26.8 million).

Chardin was an eighteenth-century French painter who is known for his still lifes and genre paintings of domestic interiors. The work, titled Le panier de fraises des bois (Basket of Wild Strawberries) (1761), is a still life of a mountain of strawberries in a wicker basket. The strawberries are set on a tabletop alongside a glass of water, two white flowers, two cherries, and a peach. 

Since the auction, the Louvre has been fighting to nullify the sale of the painting. The French government declared that the painting should be classified as a French 'national treasure,' a legal device whereby the Louvre is given two years to acquire the work. But the museum needs to raise the funds to buy the work—it must pay €24.4 million that the work made at auction.

Wikimedia Commons

Jean Simeon Chardin, Self-portrait, 1771. Pastel. The Louvre.

LMVH, the French fashion conglomerate, has donated two-thirds of the funds needed for the Louvre to acquire the work as the Louvre ramps up its donation efforts. 

For Chardin, who painted approximately 120 still lifes—often of the same objects, this is the only known work by the French master of strawberries and one of the last still lifes of the painter, according to the Louvre. It was exhibited at the Salon of 1761 and was soon forgotten for over a century until it was included in several 20th-century retrospectives in Paris. The work soon came to be one of the most famous and emblematically French images, making it a key work that the Louvre would like to acquire. 

The painting set a new record for Chardin when it sold for €24.4  million (with premium), which is well above its €15 million high estimate. The buyer, New York art dealer Adam Williams, was revealed to be bidding on behalf of a client, the Kimbell Art Museum. 

“Its entry into the national collections would masterfully complete the unique ensemble already presented at the Louvre Museum, the most important by this painter in the world," said Louvre President and Director Laurence des Cards.

On the Louvre’s website is a call to all patrons to donate, stating that this masterpiece is “the last of this quality [of work] still in private hands and at risk of leaving France.” The Museum also shares in this release that LVMH Moët Hennessy - Louis Vuitton has donated two-thirds of the sum needed, and they currently need €1.3 million for the purchase. 

While awaiting its future, the painting will be displayed at the Louvre, which may quite possibly be its new home.

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