The Louvre museum in France has reportedly blocked an American art dealer from selling a 2,000 year old Egyptian mummy with the claim it is their “national treasure”. The deal would have been worth approximately $1 million dollars according to estimates. Museum officials are claiming they did not sign any specific contract giving up that right and therefore must be compensated for lost money from the sale of the ancient artifact.
I’m thinking about amazing food scenes in painting after reading an Atlantic Magazine article on memorable food sequences in literature, such as John Updike’s character Rabbit Angstrom’s preference for candied yams.
Food was historically shown in painting as still life, a genre that ranked low on the art world’s totem pole for a long time. But that is no longer the case.
The painting “Basket of Strawberries,” by 18th-century artist Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, was recently auctioned in Paris for a record $26.8 million, making it the most expensive still life ever sold.
However, when compared to women’s still life paintings from the century before Chardin’s, it’s difficult to comprehend why this piece shattered all records.
(I’ll get to it in a minute.)
Chardin’s strawberries aren’t very appealing. The fruit has been heaped high to produce a cone shape. To contrast with a neighboring peach and cherry, their hue has been boosted. A heap of berries isn’t very beautiful.
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This work, however, is so prized that it is being battled over. The Louvre has vetoed its sale to New York art dealer Adam Williams, according to Art News.
The museum couldn’t afford the purchase, but maintained that no one else should, either, due to French legislation prohibiting the export of national treasures.
The Louvre’s blockade will last two and a half years, during which time the museum intends to raise the necessary finances to complete the acquisition.
Similar regulations exist in other nations to prohibit artwork from being exported. For example, England recently refused to allow the transfer of Joshua Reynolds’ “Portrait of Omai,” citing its “exceptional importance.”
But I don’t view Chardin’s strawberry stack as having any “significance” — exceptional or otherwise. Besides, the Louvre isn’t exactly Chardin-poor, since he already owns 41 other works by the artist.
Look for a woman
Of course, the fact that female artists’ still life works lack the value that Chardin’s strawberries have is galling.
Fede Galizia’s “Peaches in a Porcelain Bowl,” painted in 1607, comes to mind. It’s not even in a museum or a public collection; it’s privately owned.
Galizia’s peaches, in my opinion, outperform Chardin’s strawberries.
You can almost feel their furry skin just by looking at her rendering.
I’m also thinking of Louise Mollion’s still life paintings from the 17th century, which capture the exact texture of water drops. Clearly, still-life painting was not popular in the 17th century. It was ensured by the French Academy, which declared such art to be insignificant.
Or was it only because these less-heralded still lifes were created by women? What better way to comprehend why Chardin’s work is so well regarded? It isn’t simply his.
Consider Paul Cézanne’s painting “Apples and Oranges,” which is on display in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. It is described as “the most significant still life made by an artist in the late 1890s” by this museum.
Galizia and Mollion may have been born too soon.
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