Louvre launches appeal to supporters to buy Chardin masterpiece

The Louvre is launching an appeal to its supporters and donors worldwide to reach the amount needed to purchase the Strawberry Basket, Chardin's 1761 masterpiece, to enrich the museum's collections.

The Louvre launches an appeal to collect donations for the purchase of the Basket of Woodland Strawberries, a masterpiece by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (Paris, 1699 - 1779), which ended up on the market last year when it was soldon an Artcurial auction for the sum of 24 million euros (against an initial estimate of 12-15), a world record for an antique French painting, but then blocked as it was declared a “National Treasure” by the French state, a circumstance that gives the Paris museum the opportunity to exercise its right of first refusal to attempt the purchase (worth 24.3 million euros).

The Basket of Woodland Strawberries is the last Chardin masterpiece remaining in private hands, and if the Louvre fails to purchase it, the work will leave France. At the moment, thanks to LVMH Moët Hennessy - Louis Vuitton, nearly two-thirds of the sum needed for this acquisition has been raised, and with the additional support of other major donors and the Society of the Friends of the Louvre, a major appeal for donations is seen as decisive to raise another sum, or 1,300,000 euros, essential for this purchase. Only through this effort, the museum points out, will it be possible to secure Chardin’s masterpiece for the national collections.

“A work of surprising seduction and at the same time of great simplicity,” says Laurence des Cars, director of the Louvre, "the Basket of Woodland Strawberries is imbued with a poetry of the senses that reveals all the virtuosity of this master of 18th-century French painting. In a very modern economy of means, through a refined composition and color scheme, this painting is one of Chardin’s masterpieces, one of his most daring works. Its entry into the national collections would masterfully complement the unique ensemble already presented at the Louvre, the most important in the world by this painter. I thank LVMH for already responding to my appeal, and today I invite donors to participate in this magnificent acquisition. Together, let’s bring Chardin’s Basket of Strawberries to the Louvre!"

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, The Basket of Strawberries (1761; oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm)
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, The Basket of Woodland Strawberries (1761; oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm)

In the summer of 1761, Chardin exhibited at the very Salon Carrée of the Louvre a composition with a basket of strawberries at its center: it is one of the last still lifes by the painter, then at the height of a brilliant career that earned him recognition throughout Europe and prestigious royal commissions. Stark and uncluttered, Basket of Woodland Strawberries stands out from the “beautiful disorder” of Chardin’s other paintings from this period. The dense but transparent volume of the glass of water balances the fragile monument of the red fruits. The artist was visibly fascinated by the challenge of representing this singular pyramid of deep red color, both as a compact mass and as a fragile edifice composed of this multitude of small, slightly conical, unstable elements.

Admired by Denis Diderot and his contemporaries, the Basket of Strawberries also attracted the attention of the Goncourt brothers (1863): “Look at these two carnations: they are nothing but a speck of white and blue, a kind of raised silver enamel seedling; you take a step back; the flowers rise from the canvas as you move away [...]. And this is the miracle of the things Chardin paints: shaped in the mass and around their contours, drawn with their light, made, as it were, the soul of their color, they seem to detach themselves from the canvas and come alive, through some marvelous optical operation, between the canvas and the viewer in space.” Since the mid-19th century , the painting has not left the collection of the descendants of Eudoxe Marcille (1814-1890), one of the greatest admirers of Chardin’s work in history. Presented regularly at exhibitions throughout the 20th century, the painting became one of the icons of Chardin’s work and, beyond that, one of the milestones in the history of Western still life.

The call for supporters by the Parisian museum is part of the now annual Tous Mécènes program with which since 2010 the Louvre Museum has appealed to the generosity of the public for a project it considers a priority: restoration, acquisition or museographic project. The success of the Tous Mécènes campaigns also illustrates, according to the Louvre, the public’s growing desire to participate, within their means, in projects to enrich and restore the Louvre’s national collections and heritage. Since 2010, these campaigns have become one of the Louvre’s most important events and have brought together more than 30,000 donors. For the duration of the appeal, Chardin’s Basket of Woodland Strawberries will also be exceptionally displayed at the Louvre, in Room 831, Richelieu Wing, 2nd floor.

Louvre launches appeal to supporters to buy Chardin masterpiece
Louvre launches appeal to supporters to buy Chardin masterpiece

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