Sunday, April 03, 2022

The most expensive still life painting ever sold?

"The Basket of Strawberries"  (Le panier de fraise des bois) by Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) was sold at auction in Paris on 23rd March 2022 for €24,381,400. (That's $26.9 million or £20.5 million).

The predicted sale price was between €12-15 million - so the owner and auctioneers must have been very pleased by the final outcome!

Jean-Siméon CHARDIN Paris, 1699-1779
The Basket of Wild Strawberries
oil on canvas, h: 38 w: 46 cm
signed, by J. S. Chardin

This is a video by the auction house about the painting. If you have captions switched on in YouTube then you get the English version of the commentary in French by the French curators and auctioneers.


The painting was sold to a US Dealer and The Art Newspaper now reports that the Louvre suspends sale of Chardin's record-breaking strawberries. 
The French museum is now seeking funds to buy the still-life painting, which was sold last week by Artcurial to a US dealer for €24.3m 
This is an article about the painting Chardin, a Proto-Impressionist 18th-Century Painter

The most expensive still life painting ever sold?

The question it prompted for me was "Is this one of the most expensive still life paintings ever sold?"

It's certainly not the most valuable still life painting. I can think of several which might fulfil that criteria - but then they've been in art galleries and museums for quite a while and have not been sold of late. 

I started to look up "most expensive paintings sold at auction" and noted that none of them included a still life painting.

Wikipedia maintains a List of most expensive paintings - which is ordered by consumer price index inflation-adjusted value (in bold) in millions of United States dollars in 2020.[note 1]

This identifies Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers by Van Gogh as being the most expensive still life / floral painting ever auctioned - on March 30, 1987 for $39.7 million (£24.75 million) which equated uib 2020 to $90.4 million

....and that's about it.

So maybe the basket of strawberries is the second most expensive still life painting ever sold?

The Still Life Genre

For more about the Still Life genre see my 2007 post What is a still life? which is a VERY LONG post which attempts an overview of the genre. 

Although I eventually concluded I'd barely scraped the surface!

Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779)

For those like me who love paintings by Chardin (back in 2009, I spent a long time in the Louvre photographing all their paintings by Chardin!) you may well be interested in the details of his story, training and approach to painting the Internet Archive digital version(s) of "Chardin" (1969), the Catalogue Raisonné, and commentary by Georges Wildenstein and Daniel Wildenstein. 

It comes in various formats and can be read online and/or downloaded.
In fact the still-life was by no means a monopoly of Chardin, and this makes it ail the more interesting to note how he imposed his per- sonality on it to such effect that he was often thought to be its inventor, or at least renovator. And it is here that the opinions of his contemporaries are enlightening.

Chardin made numerous variants or replicas of the pictures which he regarded as his most successful. Thus we fmd whole sériés of works with cauldrons, kitchen tables, baskets of plums, peaches or grapes, eut melons, hares and a game-bag, game hung from a nail in a kitchen and the like. Some household utensils which figure several times belong presumably to the same period: a teapot, a mortar, a bowl, a jug.

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