Jean Siméon Chardin’s “Basket of Strawberries”
Jean Siméon Chardin was one of the most famous European artists of the 18th century. Admitted to the Académie Royale de Peinture in 1728, Chardin was unanimously recognized as a master of still lifes, as well as a particularly delicate portraitist and a genre painter of exceptional subtlety.
From the 1750s, Chardin devoted himself mainly to renewing his approach to the still life genre. During this period, Chardin enjoyed recognition throughout Europe, from the German principalities to the Russia of Catherine II. In the 1760s, he took royal commissions, completing ambitious paintingsfor the prestigious collections of the châteaux of Choisy (1765, including Les Attributs des arts, Musée du Louvre) and Bellevue (1767, including Les Instruments of civil music, Louvre Museum). During his last decade, he painted his final masterpieces in pastel, some of which are moving self-portraits.
Basket of Strawberries is the last masterpiece by Jean Siméon Chardin to remain in private hands. This delicious and poetic painting, unique among the painter’s works, was exhibited in the Salon Carré of the Musée du Louvre in the summer of 1761. Superbly spare and structured, this painting stands apart from the ‘beautiful disorder’ of Chardin’s other works of the period. The transparency of the light, magnificently diffused by the glass of water; the dazzling brilliance of the red-and-white harmony formed by the pyramid of strawberries; and the graceful, casually strewn carnations are unique in Chardin’s work.
Admired by Denis Diderot and his contemporaries, Basket of Strawberries also attracted the attention of the Goncourt brothers (1863): ‘Look at those two carnations: mere chips of white and blue, a scattering of silvery accents in relief; step back a little; the flowers rise from the canvas the further you draw away […]. And that is the miracle of the things Chardin paints: modeled in the mass and the surrounding of their contours, drawn with their light, made, so to speak, of the soul of their color, they seem to detach themselves from the canvas and come to life, by I know not what marvelous optical operation, between the canvas and the viewer in space.’
Thanks to the exceptional generosity of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton and the support of the Société des Amis du Louvre, the acquisition, valued at €24,400,000, is already in large part financed. We have until 28 February 2024 to collect the remaining €1,300,000 and allow Basket of Strawberries to return to the Louvre.