France suspends sale of Chardin’s basket of wild strawberries, granting it national treasure status

Bought at auction last month by an American gallery owner, Jean Siméon Chardin’s basket of wild strawberries has just been recognized as a national treasure. The Louvre Museum hopes to include it in its collections.

On March 23, at Artcurial in Paris, a New York art dealer purchased an exceptional painting by Jean Siméon Chardin (1699-1769) for the record sum of €24.3 million. It was him basket of wild strawberries, a still life painted around 1760-61, considered a true masterpiece of the genre. Laurence des Cars, president and director of the Louvre Museum, then asked the Ministry of Culture to confer national treasure status on the painting. The export certificate has just been suspended and the institution now has 30 months to raise the amount necessary for the acquisition of the work.

30 months ahead

Meeting on April 13, the National Treasures Advisory Commission rejected the request for an export certificate presented by the buyer, thus recognizing the status of a national treasure on the table. basket of wild strawberries. She makes several arguments, including Chardin’s importance as a still life painter, the intrinsic qualities of this painting” masterful and minimalist » which testifies to the great technical mastery of the artist in the last period of his work (treatment of light and transparencies, composition, economy of means, etc.) or even the unique character of the theme in Chardin’s production. In fact, it is the only known representation of strawberries painted by the latter.

Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, The Basket of Wild Strawberries, oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm, © Artcurial

Therefore, the Commission decided that this work is of great interest to the national heritage from the point of view of history and art and should be considered a national treasure “. The Louvre Museum now has 30 months to raise the necessary funds for its acquisition and make a purchase offer. At the end of this period, in the absence of an offer, the buyer can again submit an export application, which the State can’t refuse this time Given the museum’s acquisition budget (approximately 5-7 million per year), it will certainly be necessary to raise funds from patrons.

41 Chardin?

The day after the sale, Laurence des Cars announced in the columns of the Figaro that the Louvre wanted to position itself to acquire the work and therefore asked the State to suspend the export of the painting. He then explained that the museum had expressed its interest in the work several months earlier to Éric Turquin, an expert in ancient painting and advisor to the owner of the painting, then valued at between 12 and 15 million euros.According to expert Éric Turquin, a painting by Chardin can be seen just a few meters away.  Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, The Basket of Wild Strawberries, oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm ©Agathe Hakoun

According to expert Éric Turquin, a painting by Chardin can be seen just a few meters away.
Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, The Basket of Wild Strawberries, oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm ©Agathe Hakoun

As the institution did not have the necessary budget, it could not assert, during the sale, its preferential subscription right, an exceptional procedure that allows public collections to include works of great interest. basket of wild strawberries it had then been acquired by Adam Williams, an art dealer in New York (perhaps working here on behalf of major American museums) for more than 24 million euros, a record price at auction for a work by Chardin but also a record for a work of the eighteenth century. French painting.
The desire of the Louvre to acquire this painting, which already owns some forty works by Chardin, including the famous Lightning 1728. But as Laurence des Cars explained to our colleagues at Le Parisien: “ What is decisive is not the number of paintings we have, it is the wonder of this masterpiece. “.

The quintessence of Chardin’s art

From the collection of François Marcille (1790-1856), who owned nearly 4,500 paintings, including works by Chardin, Boucher and Fragonard, the basket of wild strawberries reappeared on the market recently. It would probably be the artist’s last work still in private hands. Presented many times in temporary exhibitions, the painting is unanimously considered a major work by Chardin and a true reference in the history of still life. As the Commission opinion explains: An essential milestone in the history of still lifes in Western painting, this masterful work constitutes, through its modernity, an incomparable link between the Dutch heritage transcended by Chardin and the precursory artistic movements of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. , and represents the last quintessence of the art of this important painter. “