Flemish painting and De Jonckheere Gallery's old master paintings
A figurehead of Parisian still life painting in the mid-1600s, Louise Moillon provides us with a remarkable example of her art with this Still life with...read more
A figurehead of Parisian still life painting in the mid-1600s, Louise Moillon provides us with a remarkable example of her art with this Still life with plums and hazelnuts. Faithful to the Flemish models she grew up with during her training, our artist combines balance and simplicity in her presentation of a wicker basket containing plums, with a handful of hazelnuts scattered in front of it.
Discovered during an exhibition in 1934 dedicated to the “Realist painters”, this artist, alongside her contemporaries from the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter, has very specific characteristics, which are fully illustrated in this still life. The extreme sobriety of the background, the elegant simplicity of the wicker basket and the nobleness of the fruit make this a still life of quality that was highly fashionable among enthusiasts of the day. The plums, normally associated with pleasure and original sin, probably don’t have any symbolic meaning here. These baskets of fruit painted by Linard, Dupuis and Garnier are more of a poetic invitation to contemplation and taste. Plums are one of our artist’s favourite fruits, alongside apricots and peaches.
Although she prefers to paint on oak panels, Moillon has chosen a canvas here, with the fruit delicately standing out against the dark background. Just like the panel in the museum in Strasbourg, the purple plums ripple with bluish reflections. Similar to the basket of plums and basket of strawberries in the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse, the leaves provide relief and movement in the painting: the pile of fruit forms a homogenous mass while small branches create light curls. These pure and luminous colours, together with this dark background, give this painting an altogether modern aspect.
Furthermore, this painting highlights the links uniting the Netherlands and Italy. In the north, the focus lies on abundance and a concentration of food and meticulous details, while further south, the main concern is the evolution of a genre through chiaroscuro effects. As such, Louise Moillon is among those who are the closest to a Flemish aesthetic, notes Charles Sterling. Considering the curiosity aroused by this artist and the increasing number of details known about her career and her entourage, she certainly deserves her place among the greatest still life painters.
 Dish of plums, panel, 36.2 x 51.4 cm, signed and dated Louyse Moillon 1632 bottom right, Strasbourg, Museum of Fine Arts.
 Basket of plums and basket of strawberries, panel, 46.5 x 59.5 cm, signed and dated Louyse Moillon 1632 bottom right, Toulouse, Musée des Augustins.
 STERLING, Charles, La nature morte de l’Antiquité au XXe siècle, new revised edition, Paris, Macula, 1985, p.75.
1610 – Paris 1696
Louise Moillon, who specialised in still lifes, was the most important female painter in France in the 17th century. She was the daughter of Nicolas Moillon, a landscape...read more
1610 – Paris 1696
Louise Moillon, who specialised in still lifes, was the most important female painter in France in the 17th century. She was the daughter of Nicolas Moillon, a landscape painter and art dealer, and the sister of Isaac, also a painter. After the death of her father, Louise’s mother married François Garnier in 1620, also a still life painter and art dealer. It was he who took care of the young girl’s apprenticeship. The only known painting by François Garnier is a still life, signed and dated 1644, depicting a branch of cherries and a branch of gooseberries lying on a table. He belonged to the Protestant school initiated in the art of still life by a group of artists from the north, living around Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
The majority of Louise Moillon’s paintings are signed and dated. Most of them were executed before 1648 and are mainly to be found in private collections in France. The interruption of her artistic career can be explained by her marriage to Etienne Girardot de Clancourt in 1640, a Calvinist and timber merchant who provided her with a certain financial ease, and with whom she had three children. We know very little about the end of her life except that she must have suffered greatly from the Protestant repression, following the "revocation of the Edict of Nantes" in 1685. This cost the life of her husband, led to the exile of two of her children and her own conversion to Catholicism.
A specialist of still lifes, Louise Moillon preferred fruit to flowers throughout her career. She arranged apricots, grapes, peaches and plums in Delftware bowls or wicker baskets, laid on a wooden table or slab of stone against a dark background. On rare occasions, she enlivened her paintings with human figures, following the example of the Flemish painters Snijders and Fijt. Alongside Picart, Linard and Strosskoff, she belongs to the French still life masters of the first half of the 17th century, whose works were enjoyed for their sober compositions.