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Kimbell Art Museum acquires still life by female Old Master Louise Moillon

Kimbell Art Museum acquires still life by female Old Master Louise Moillon

  • news by AUN News correspondent
  • Saturday, November 19, 2022
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, now has a rare still life by the enigmatic French painter Louise Moillon from the 17th century that has never before been viewed by the general public.

  • Scholars were unaware of the 1631 painting Still Life with a Bowl of Strawberries, Basket of Cherries, and Branch of Gooseberries until it turned up at a Paris auction in March 2022.

  • The artwork is the first French still life from the 17th century to be added to the collection, and it is one of several purchases honouring the museum’s 50th anniversary.

  • Most of these are from the 1629–1637 period and have the artist’s signature, “Louyse Moillon.”

  • Her last known piece was produced in 1641 when she married lumber dealer Étienne Girardot.

The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, now has a rare still life by the enigmatic French painter Louise Moillon from the 17th century that has never before been viewed by the general public.

Scholars were unaware of the 1631 painting Still Life with a Bowl of Strawberries, Basket of Cherries, and Branch of Gooseberries until it turned up at a Paris auction in March 2022. It shows an attractive display of freshly harvested fruit. In an auction that broke all previous records for Moillon, the oil painting was sold to an American collector; in October, the collector sold the piece to the Kimbell through the New York-based dealer Adam Williams.

According to Eric Lee, the director of the Kimbell, “The Kimbell was interested in buying the work first and foremost because of its extraordinary quality and condition, as well as because of how beautiful it looked hanging in the Kimbell’s Louis Kahn-designed galleries.” It will undoubtedly become a crowd favorite.

The artwork is the first French still life from the 17th century to be added to the collection, and it is one of several purchases honoring the museum’s 50th anniversary. The French paintings from the era in the group, which also include works by Nicolas Poussin, Georges de La Tour, and the Le Nain brothers, “contribute a new perspective,” according to Lee. “The fact that Moillon is a female artist is beneficial,” he continues.

Moillon is not well-known today, but during her lifetime, her trompe l’oeil still lifes of fruits and vegetables that look like jewels were very popular. Moillon was born in 1609 or 1610 to a Protestant family in Catholic France. After displaying her first piece, a painting of a bowl of peaches, at Grenoble, she sold it. She is also thought to have gotten contracts from Charles I of England and Louis XIII of France, who both acquired five of her fruit paintings. Her work can be found in the collections of the Louvre, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.

Moillon was introduced to the serene tabletop scenes of painters from the southern Netherlands. They were among those seeking asylum from religious persecution while growing up in the Parisian neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which served as a haven for Protestant refugees. Her father, Nicolas, was a painter, and her brother, Isaac, would become well-known for his Baroque paintings. She also hails from a family of painters. On the other hand, scholars agree that her stepfather, the painter and merchant Francois Garnier, was her teacher. According to an inventory made after her mother’s death in 1630, she had painted 13 still lifes by the time she was 20 years old, most of which featured fruit.

A family in central France has owned Still Life with a Bowl of Strawberries since the early 20th century. The previous frame’s label, which says “J-A Ponsin, Rue Fortuny, Paris,” raises the possibility that it originally belonged to Joseph-Albert Ponsin, an actor, a stained-glass artist, and the creator of the Bourjois cosmetics firm. When the piece went up for auction in March, La Gazette Drouot predicted a bidding war; it ended up fetching €1.6 million (including fees), more than eight times the high estimate of €200,000, and breaking Moillon’s previous record of €1.1 million (including costs) from a Sotheby’s Paris auction in 2016.

Williams stated that “this is the finest image by Louise Moillon to come on the market in the last 50 years,” but both The Kimbell and Williams declined to disclose how much they paid for the piece.

The catalogue raisonné of Moillon, written by Dominique Alsina, lists 69 genuine paintings. Most of these are from the 1629–1637 period and have the artist’s signature, “Louyse Moillon.” Her last known piece was made in 1641, when she married Étienne Girardot, a lumber dealer. Kimble thinks that she might not have kept her job because her husband had a lot of money, a high social status, and a big family. The antique form of her work had fallen out of favor, according to historians Pierre Rosenberg, John Wyndham Pope-Hennessy, and Marc Fumaroli, who was writing in France during the Golden Age.

Moillon may not be making a comeback just yet, but she is getting praise from institutions bit by bit. In 2021, the Toledo Museum of Art bought a painting by Moillon that is a still life of lemons and oranges. In collaboration with the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Baltimore Museum of Art is now displaying a market scene from 1630 through the summer of 2023. At the Louvre, cherry, plum, and melon paintings stand out in a significant still-life exhibition.

A still life with a lavish bouquet by Dutch artist Jacques de Gheyn II is displayed in the museum’s south gallery, next to Still Life with a Bowl of Strawberries. Lee claims that the two paintings “show two dramatically different approaches to still-life painting in the early 17th century,” even if the Morillon is more severe than the vivacious De Gheyn.

Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network

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