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  • Louise Wagon

The Louvre wants to buy an exceptional Chardin

The Louvre wanted it. It should soon be able to buy it. The museum is launching a public subscription to acquire Le Panier de fraises des bois (1761) by Chardin. The LVMH group has undertaken to finance two-thirds of the price of the still life, i.e. around €15 million out of a total of €24.4 million.

Le Louvre veut s'acheter Le Panier de fraises des bois de Chardin
Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Le Panier de fraises des bois, huile sur toile, 38 x 46 cm. © Musée du Louvre/Hervé Lewandowski

For several decades, the Louvre has dreamed of owning Le Panier de fraises des bois, a still life painted by Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) in 1761, at the height of his career. This exceptionally well-preserved painting depicts a pyramid of red fruit in a wicker basket, accompanied by a glass, white carnations, two cherries and a peach.

But this dream comes at a price: 24.4 million euros. This is the sum for which the painting was sold to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Wirth, Texas, at an Artcurial auction in March 2022. The Louvre was unable to exercise its right of pre-emption due to its acquisition budget, which is limited to €13 million a year. The Ministry of Culture then suspended the sale and blocked the export of the painting, labelling it a "national treasure".

The government has thirty months to raise the money. To achieve this, on Tuesday 7 November the Louvre launched a public subscription campaign as part of its annual "Tous mécènes! The aim is to raise €1.3 million from public donations to add to the €15 million provided by LVMH, whose name comes to mind as soon as the works are valued in the tens of millions. A donation of 500,000 euros from the Société des Amis du Louvre, as well as the support of two other French companies who wished to remain anonymous, will also lighten the amount of the national subscription launched by the Louvre.

While the ban on leaving France for Le Panier de fraises ends in autumn 2024, the crowdfunding campaign will come to an end on 28 February, during which time the painting will exceptionally be on display in the Louvre's collections of French paintings (room 831, 2nd floor of the Richelieu wing). If the target is not reached, LVMH has given assurances that it will cover the difference.

The Louvre already owns the world's largest collection of still lifes by Chardin, with forty-one works. But "this is not one more Chardin", corrected Laurence des Cars, the museum's president and director, at the launch of the 14th "Tous mécènes! "It's the missing Chardin! First exhibited in the Salon carré of the Louvre in 1761, the painting has subsequently belonged to the same private French collection, that of the descendants of the great collector Eudoxe Marcille (1814-1890), since the mid-19th century.

Since its first edition in 2010, the "Tous mécènes!" campaign has helped to restore and acquire a number of major works of art. For example, it has made it possible for the Three Graces (1531) by Lucas Cranach the Elder to enter the museum's collections, and for the Victory of Samothrace, a sculpture dating from 190 BC, to be restored.

To make a donation, visit the online platform, before 28 February 2024.

All donations entitle individuals to a tax reduction of 66% of the amount donated, and the Musée du Louvre also offers other benefits (depending on the amount donated).


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