Jean Simeon Chardin still life

Le melon entamé by Jean Simeon Chardin, €23m (£19.4m) at Christie’s Paris.

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The painting of a large melon with a slice removed was painted in 1760 and was a rare example of one of the artist’s pictures in an oval format.

The 22 x 20in (57 x 52cm) oval oil on canvas titled Le melon entamé (The cut melon) was once part of the Old Master collection of the Marcille family – father François (1790-1856) and his sons Eudoxe (1814-90) and Camille (1816-75) – who owned 30 paintings by Chardin. After François’ death the two sons divided his collection between them.

Le melon entamé went to Camille and was sold following his death in 1875 to Stéphane Bourgeois, an art dealer acting on behalf of Baroness Nathaniel de Rothschild (1825-99). It then descended to the current vendor.

In recent years Chardin paintings that were part of the Marcille collection have been appearing on the market, setting new records for the artist.

In November 2021 Christie’s, in collaboration with Tajan, sold one of his genre subjects, La fontaine (The water urn), for a hammer price of €6m. Then, in March 2022, Artcurial sold Panier de fraises, depicting a triangular mound of wild strawberries, for a hammer price of €20.5m, the previous record for the artist until the current sale.

Both had been part of the Eudoxe Marcille collection and the latter still-life has since been acquired by the Louvre.

Exhibition debut 

Le melon entamé was originally exhibited at the Paris Salon the year after it was painted where it was displayed alongside its pendant, Le bocal d’abricots – a work now in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

Surpassing its estimate of €8m-12m at Christie’s, Le melon entamé not only set a record for Chardin as well as any Old Master sold in France. According to the auction house the price was the highest for any 18th century French painting sold at auction and also the most expensive work in any category sold in France so far in 2024.