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A wicker basket tumbles on its side, pouring ripe fruit out into the light. At the foot of the luscious heap of melons, peaches and heavy bunches of grapes, two large tomatoes glisten. On the right, a black vase holds a profusion of autumn flowers. The two elements of the painting are held together by an overblown pink rose leaning down to brush against a pale green melon among the fruit.
The painting was thought to be the work of Eugène Delacroix, but it is has now been attributed to Pierre Andrieu, his most trusted assistant, and holds its own with a place in the National Gallery’s collection. At the studio sale following Delacroix’s death, Andrieu was in possession of the wax seal that was fixed to the back of this picture – perhaps accidentally, perhaps intentionally – and that authenticated it as by Delacroix.
A wicker basket tumbles on its side, pouring ripe fruit out into the light. At the foot of the luscious heap of melons, peaches and heavy bunches of grapes, two large tomatoes glisten. In the darkness above the fruit, large leaves seem to float in space, brittle and turning brown.
On the right, a black baluster-shaped vase holds a profusion of autumn flowers. They also seem to be falling towards the rough table top, and only the tall sheaf of stiff stalks disappearing upwards out of the picture seems to hold them back like a brake. The two elements of the painting are held together by an overblown pink rose leaning down to brush against a pale green melon in the heap of fruit.
For many years, the picture was considered to be the work of Eugène Delacroix. He made a few still-life paintings, mostly of flowers, but one or two of fruit. Although at first doubtful of the picture’s authenticity, Edgar Degas, a great collector as well as an artist, was finally persuaded that it was by Delacroix and bought it, and it is thought that Auguste Renoir may have owned it after Degas’s death in 1917. Their faith in the picture wasn’t just based on style and technique – it was backed up by the Delacroix studio stamp of authenticity on the back. But the painting has now been attributed to Pierre Andrieu, Delacroix’s most trusted assistant. It does perhaps lack something of Delacroix’s energy and exuberance. The flowers are more carefully defined than his, and it’s unlikely that he would have left the large area of bare wall on the right of the picture, which makes the composition rather lopsided.
As Delacroix’s assistant, Andrieu would undoubtedly have seen his still-life paintings, and he had also been invaluable in restoring various of Delacroix’s major decorative works at the Paris City Hall and at the Luxembourg Palace when they became damaged. Andrieu was known to have sold copies of Delacroix’s pictures but also works of his own, mainly animal paintings. There were allegations that he passed off his own work as by Delacroix, but these were never substantiated. At the studio sale following Delacroix’s death, Andrieu was in possession of the wax seal that was fixed to the back of this picture – perhaps accidentally, perhaps intentionally. But now it has been recognised as Andrieu’s work, the painting holds its own with a place in the National Gallery’s collection.
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