Squish! The Louvre Puts the Kibosh on the $26.8 Million Sale of Chardin’s Record-Setting Strawberry Painting

The museum, hoping to acquire the treasured artwork, has requested that it be classified as a French national treasure.

Jean Simeon Chardin, Le panier de fraises des bois displayed at the Cabinet Turquin in Paris, on January 20, 2022. Photo by Stephane De Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images.

Last week, an unassuming still life by 18th-century French artist Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin sold for €24.4 million ($26.8 million) at an auction in Paris, smashing presale expectations and stunning Old Masters market-followers. 

But now, the sale has been put on hold as the Musée du Louvre has declared that it wants to acquire the artwork for its own collection.

​​In an interview with the French news outlet Le Figaro, Louvre director Laurence des Cars explained that she has requested the Chardin painting, Basket of Wild Strawberries, be classified by the state as “a national treasure,” a distinction that would prevent it from being exported out of the country.

This process, known as pre-emption, would halt the sale of the painting for as long as two-and-a-half years, giving the museum time to raise funds for the acquisition. 

“We are fully mobilized to bring it into national collections,” des Cars said.

A spokesperson for the museum declined to comment further when reached by Artnet News.

The painting, which depicts a heap of strawberries next to a glass of water and a pair of white flowers, reportedly went to New York art dealer Adam Williams, who outbid a London gallery and a Parisian dealer for the piece. To do it, he came in well above the artwork’s high pre-sale estimate of €15 million ($16.5 million).

The sale, which took place at the Paris auction house Artcurial on March 23, set a new auction record for Chardin, far surpassing the previous high mark of $8 million, achieved late last year at Christie’s Paris.

Artcurial also claimed the sale to be a record for any 18th-century French painting sold at auction.

According to the Art Newspaper, the auction house applied for an export certificate for the painting just 10 days prior to last month’s sale—a period of time too short to have one granted.

Representatives from Artcurial told the publication that although the possibility of pre-emption wasn’t explicitly discussed with Williams before the event, the information is mentioned in its conditions of sale.

In a statement issued to Artnet News, representatives from the auction house said they and Williams “have no problem waiting for the outcome” of the pre-emption process because they were “aware of the importance of the work.”

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