The Louvre Museum in Paris, France, is certainly one of the most prominent and well-stocked museums in the world. But even with its more than 5,500 paintings, there is one that The Louvre simply cannot imagine life without.
“The Basket of Wild Strawberries” by famous French artist Jean Siméon Chardin has, until very recently, lived in the home of art collector Eudoxe Marcille. But in 2022, he decided to sell the beloved painting. After quite the bidding war, it wasn’t The Louvre who won the amazing piece of art for $26.4 million, but the much smaller Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.
Though small, the Kimbell Art Museum is home to over 300 pieces of art, including works by the cherished French artists Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, and Paul Gauguin. As well as “The Torment of Saint Anthony,” the first-known painting by Michelangelo.
The Kimbell Art Museum only has one other piece by the esteemed Jean Siméon Chardin, who is considered one of the most impressive still-life artists of all time. And although the Texas museum was wildly excited to display their new purchase, almost immediately after the auction, the Culture Ministry of France called to say that they simply could not send it over.
According to the French Culture Ministry, the 18th-century piece is a “national treasure. This means that the French National Collections organization has the right to retain the piece as long as they can come up with the money to pay for it.
The law dictates that they have two and a half years to match the original bid of $26.4 million, and art lovers around France got to work right away fundraising in order to ensure “The Basket of Wild Strawberries” would end up in the Louvre, not in Texas.
Luckily, they raised $16.3 million from luxury brand LVMH, which owns Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton. And another 2,000 individuals have donated another 20% of the funds needed to keep the painting in France. However, there are only four months left until the two-and-a-half-year mark, and the National Collections is still $1.4 million short of its goal.
The Louvre explained to art lovers in France that this is “the last [painting] of its quality to remain in private hands” and that “Its entry into the national collections would masterfully complete the unique ensemble already presented at the Louvre Museum, the most important by this painter in the world.”
While $1.4 million seems like a lot of money, the truth is that France and The Louvre will almost certainly raise the money before the deadline and be able to keep the famous painting on French soil. And the Kimbell Art Museum director, Eric M. Lee, is losing the painting with grace.
In a recent interview, Lee said, “I agree that the painting is a national treasure of France. But I also believe that it is a world treasure and could serve as an ambassador of French culture.” And finished by saying, “While I’m sorry that the painting will not find its home at the Kimbell, I’m delighted that this masterpiece of French painting will be on view for the public at the Louvre.”