The Louvre Blocked the $26.8 Million Sale of Chardin’s Record-Setting “A Basket of Wild Strawberry” Painting

Jean Siméon Chardin, Basket of Wild Strawberries, 1761

Jean Siméon Chardin’s painting Basket of Strawberries (1761) was sold at Artcurial for $26.8 million. The Basket of Wild Strawberries was purchased by New York art dealer Adam Williams. This is a record for an artist. That is until the Louvre decided it needed the painting.

Although the Louvre museum did not have enough funds to purchase the painting at the time of the auction, it has since blocked the sale on the grounds that it is a national treasure under French law. After all, this is Chardin’s only depiction of strawberries.

The work of art has been declared a French national treasure. So the state can block its sale for two and a half years. A similar move was used in 2019 when Rembrandt’s The Standard Bearer (1636) was to be put up for sale. In that case, the Rembrandt painting was not put up for auction and the museums were given a right of first refusal.

Declaring a work a national treasure is often used in Europe to prevent the sale and export of important works. In Spain, collector Jaime Botín got into legal trouble after he tried to smuggle out of the country a Picasso painting Head of a Young Woman (1906), which had been declared a national treasure. Other countries will simply ban exports without national treasure status.

Recently Britain banned the export of Joshua Reynolds’ Portrait of Omai (1776). This came after the UK Export Control Board declared that this work was of outstanding value and outstanding work in the study of colonialism and empire, scientific research, and the history of the Pacific.

In the case of the Chardin painting, the Louvre must find funds to buy the Basket of Strawberries. While the artist’s previous maximum price was $8 million, this work sparked a huge bidding war. But the problem is they may not have the funds.

According to Art Newspaper, the museum allocates about 20 percent of ticket sales to its acquisition budget and can typically raise between $6 million and $7 million a year. Even after a couple of years, it is unlikely that enough funds will be accumulated to buy a record-breaking painting. But as the Louvre museum visitor numbers have dwindled over the past few years due to the pandemic, there are even fewer resources at their disposal.

Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin (November 2, 1699 – December 6, 1779) was an 18th-century Parisian painter, a unique master of color reproduction. The work of Jean Baptiste Chardin was based on careful observation of the surrounding life.

Chardin paintings have no mythological pomposity. His stories are simple and ordinary. They are full of warmth and sincere light. Jean Baptiste Chardin remained misunderstood by the critics of his era. But the artist put up with this without changing the truthful manner of depicting genre scenes.

His still lifes are devoid of underlined rudeness. Chardin’s paintings are elegant and simple, like the whole life of the modest French artist.

There are already 41 Chardin paintings in the Louvre collection. Do they really need another one?


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