The Louvre Snags a Coveted Chardin, Thanks to a Record-Setting Campaign

The French institution beat out the Kimbell Art Museum to acquire the work.

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

Through a record-setting public campaign, the Louvre Museum has won an important canvas by a giant of French still-life painting that was poised to leave the country.

The museum had put out the call in November to raise the money to buy Le Panier de fraises (Basket of Wild Strawberries) (1761), a still life by Jean Siméon Chardin, and stop it from going to America. When the canvas went to auction with Artcurial in 2022, an anonymous purchaser—later revealed to be the Kimbell Art Museum, in Fort Worth, Texas—snapped it up for €24.4 million ($26.8 million) on an estimate of €15 million ($16.5 million). That sale shattered the artist’s previous $8 million record.

The French government responded by classifying the work as a national treasure, a form of legal protection that gave the Louvre two years to acquire the work. The institution needed to meet the sale price to get the work back from the Kimbell. To inspire public support, the painting went on view at the Louvre during the campaign, and in the end it took just a few months to raise the needed funds.

To begin with, the museum had substantial help from LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton, which is led by founder Bernard Arnault—the world’s richest man, per Forbes’s billionaire list. The French fashion conglomerate had pledged some €15 million ($16.2 million).

Major donors, the Society of Friends of the Louvre, and the museum itself then coughed up some €7.8 million ($8.4 million). Finally, nearly 10,000 individual donors banded together to exceed the museum’s €1.3 million goal ($1.4 million) to contribute another €1.6 million ($1.7 million), more than the French institution has ever raised in one of its “Tous Mécènes!” (“All Patrons!”) campaigns. Many are first-time donors, according to the museum’s president and director, Laurence des Cars.

The painting will go on view at the Louvre’s outpost in Lens, in northern France, on March 21. It will then travel to Paris and thence to the Museum of Fine Arts in Brest starting July 2, before appearing at the Roger-Quilliot art museum in Clermont-Ferrand on October 2.

Many donors signed an online guest book, which the museum quotes in a press release.

“This work allows us to see and taste beauty, it is a gift of which we are the recipients several centuries away. Culture gives life,” wrote one donor. Another added: “I wanted to acquire a work of art! But what could be more interesting than participating in offering a work like this to the Louvre? Thank you for allowing me to be a patron! An inspiring painting.”

“Thank you to the Louvre for giving us the opportunity to participate in the acquisition of Chardin’s masterpiece. Which must not leave our museum,” opined another donor.

This was the 14th “All Patrons!” call. The program started in 2010 and has garnered support from some 35,000 donors, with 14,000 appearing as repeat donors and a generous 116 supporting every one, according to the Louvre. 

Chardin’s works appear in museums throughout the world, at institutions including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Tokyo’s Fuji Art Museum; the Hermitage Museum in Moscow; and the J. Paul Getty Museum, in Los Angeles.

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