The Musée du Louvre has launched a fundraising campaign to raise €1.3m needed to acquire a painting of a pile of strawberries by the 18th-century French artist Jean Siméon Chardin. The work, Basket of Wild Strawberries (1761), was sold for €24.3m (with fees)—the highest price paid at auction for an 18th-century French painting—at Artcurial in Paris in March last year.
“This famous still life, a masterpiece of [Chardin], is the last of this quality still in private hands and risks leaving France,” says a Louvre statement. The luxury goods conglomerate LVMH is contributing two-thirds of the amount for the purchase (around €16m); other donors include the patrons group, Société des Amis du Louvre. The museum allocates 20% of its ticketing to acquisitions, normally raising around €13m annually.
The Chardin painting was sold to the dealer Adam Williams who was bidding in the room at Artcurial. But the sale of the still-life was thwarted by the Louvre which blocked the export of the work after the sale. The new owner, represented by Williams at the auction, was later revealed to be the Kimbell Art Museum in Forth Worth, Texas.
Louvre director Laurence des Cars told the newspaper Le Figaro that she requested Basket of Wild Strawberries should be classed as “a national treasure”, and was seeking funding to buy it. Under French law, this means the work can be held for two-and-a-half-years. The Louvre already has 41 works by Chardin in its collection.
Basket of Wild Strawberries, shown at the Louvre in 1761 as part of the Paris Salon, was passed down through the family of Eudoxe Marcille, a 19th-century connoisseur who inherited numerous works by influential artists such as François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard from his father, François Marcille.