The Louvre Seeks Donations to Stop an American Museum From Acquiring a French Masterpiece

It is two-thirds the way to its goal, thanks to the world's richest man.

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Le panier de fraises des bois. Courtesy of ArtCurial.

The Louvre Museum in Paris is seeking donations to finish its fundraising efforts to buy a beloved painting of strawberries by French still-life master Jean Siméon Chardin out from under the nose of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Chardin’s painting, Basket of Wild Strawberries (1761), first displayed at the salon that year, set a record for the artist last year when an unknown buyer—later revealed to be the Kimbell—scooped it up at an Artcurial auction for €24.4 million ($26.8 million).

The sale went well above its €15 million ($16.5 million) estimate and prompted the French government to classify the work as a national treasure, a type of legal protection that gives the Louvre two years to acquire the work. The French museum will need to meet the €24.4 million sale price to take possession of the work from the seller.

“This famous still life, a masterpiece of the master’s art, is the last of its kind still in private hands and is in danger of leaving France,” the museum said in an appeal for donations on November 7.

The museum noted that it is now about two-thirds of the way to accomplishing its goal thanks to major donations including one from LVMH, the French fashion conglomerate led by founder Bernard Arnault—the world’s richest man, according to Forbes’ list of billionaires.

Artnet News has reached out to the Kimbell Art Museum and LVMH for more information and additional comment.

“With the additional support of other major donors and the Société des Amis du Louvre, a large-scale appeal for donations will be decisive in raising the further one million three hundred thousand euros needed for this purchase,” the Louvre said in its statement.

The Louvre said the painting, displayed in the museum throughout the campaign for donations, has been “celebrated since its creation” and “possesses a unique charm and force that sets it apart from the rest of the artist’s work.”

“This painting is one of Chardin’s masterpieces, and one of his most daring works,” the museum said.

As noted by the Observer, the fashion giant has a long history of being involved in the purchase of national treasures. It is the seventh such work that the company has helped the French government acquire for public collections.

Earlier this year, the company donated about $46 million to acquire Gustave Caillebotte’s painting A Boating Party (1877), which was classified as a national treasure in 2020, for the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

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