Lot 9
  • 9

PIERRE-AUGUSTE RENOIR | Nature morte au melon, amandes et figues

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • Nature morte au melon, amandes et figues
  • Signed Renoir. (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 21 3/8 by 25 5/8 in.
  • 54.2 by 65 cm
  • Painted in 1882.


M. Durand Ruel, Paris

Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the above on August 13, 1889) 

Desmond Fitzgerald, New York (acquired from the above on August 13, 1889 and sold: American Art Association, New York, April 22, 1927, lot 186)

Howard Young, New York (acquired at the above sale)

Ralph & Mary Booth, Detroit (acquired circa 1927 and until at least 1950)

William & Virginia Booth Vogel, Milwaukee (by descent from the above)

Private Collection, Chicago (by descent from the above and sold: Sotheby’s, New York, May 15, 1984, lot 26)

Private Collection (acquired at the above sale and sold: Sotheby’s, London, December 2, 1986, lot 31)

Acquired at the above sale


Boston, Museum of Fine Arts (on loan 1919-20)

New York, Duveen Galleries, Renoir: Centennial Loan Exhibition 1841-1941, 1941, no. 44, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Le Melon)

New York, Wildenstein & Co., A Loan Exhibition of Renoir, 1950, no. 42, illustrated in the catalogue (titled The Melon)


Michel Florisoone, Renoir, London, 1938, illustrated p. 156

Elda Fezzi, L’Opera completa di Renoir nel periodo impressionista, 1869-1883, Milan, 1972, no. 553, illustrated p. 113 (titled Melone e due fruttiere)

Elda Fezzi, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Renoir, période impressionniste 1869-1883, Paris, 1985, no. 528, illustrated p. 111 (titled Le Melon)

Guy-Patrice & Michel Dauberville, Renoir. Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, vol. II, Paris, 2009, no. 729, illustrated p. 31 (titled Nature morte au melon)

Catalogue Note

The sumptuous table-scape was executed in 1882, just as Renoir was enjoying an early period of financial stability as a portraitist for the Parisian bourgeoisie. In 1879, Renoir refused to participate in the fourth Impressionist group exhibition with his friends, instead choosing to submit a group of paintings to the 1879 Salon jury, including Mme Charpentier and her Children. This work was selected for inclusion, and its positive reception at the Salon made Renoir increasingly sought after for portraits of the Parisian bourgeois circle that including the Charpentiers, as well as new supporters like Paul Bérard. Though time-consuming, these commissions provided Renoir with a steadier income as well as a new network of wealthy collectors, and from this moment arose pivotal works such as Luncheon of the Boating Party. This work was part of a group sold to Renoir’s dealer Paul Durand-Ruel in 1881 for 16,000 francs—a considerable sum that most likely allowed Renoir to proceed with his travel plans for the next three years. From October 1881 through the early months of 1882, Renoir toured Italy, visiting cities such as Naples, Rome and Venice, accompanied by his model and mistress Aline. Considered a rite of passage for artists of his generation, this trip exposed the artist to new sources of inspiration which would invigorate his traditional Impressionist style with classical techniques and perspectives powerfully evinced in the present work. Describing Renoir’s stylistic innovation achieved in Italy, Barbara Ehrlich White writes: “Here Renoir initiated his unique blend of Impressionist and Classicism, the direction for his future artistic development. He does not renounce Impressionism, but combines it with classicism, creating a new style, Classical Impressionism. This synthesis became a major direction of his artistic explorations in the paintings of the next thirty-eight years” (B. Ehrlich White, Renoir: An Intimate Biography, New York, 2017, p. 113). 

This stylistic fusion is notably at play in the present work, which depicts a group of figs and a single melon, all carefully placed on porcelain ware in a triangular, geometric arrangement. The work also belies a consciousness of Renoir’s contemporaries, particularly Paul Cézanne (see fig. 1). “Renoir was trying to give his figures more solidity and his compositions more structure at the same time as retaining Impressionist light and colour. In Italy, he hoped to learn how to acquire the ‘grandeur’ that Cezanne had achieved, and it is likely that it was Cézanne’s style that led Renoir to Italy. Renoir was attempting to emulate the classical and sculptural qualities of Cézanne’s art, but in his own way” (ibid., p. 112). In the present work, Renoir has similarly concentrated on the relationships among heavy cylindrical outlines of the melon, figs and the porcelain bowl, and has experimented with a play on space and perspective by slightly concealing the second bowl of figs behind the melon while maintaining a pyramidal arrangement. Yet Renoir remains true to the softness of his original Impressionist palette and the overall luminosity of the composition.

Nature morte au melon, amandes et figues is distinguished by its relation to a work by Gustave Caillebotte, Melon et compotier de figues (see fig. 2), which Marie Berhaut suggests was likely painted side by side with the present work during the summer of 1882 in Trouville, while Renoir was staying with Mr. and Mrs. Paul Bérard in their Wargemont chateau near Dieppe. While Caillebotte’s still life is defined by its traditionally Impressionist brushwork and its more prevalent use of shadow and light, Renoir's canvas is marked by the clarity and solidity of its composition, more reminiscent of Cézanne’s later works.

Renoir's delicate attention to the ceramic elements in the present composition recalls his time as a young apprentice in the porcelain-painting workshop of the Lévy brothers on the Rue des Fossés-du-Temple in Paris (see fig. 3). The detailed execution of these blue and white ceramic teacups, vases and bowls evoke his earliest experience within the artistic trade, before he transitioned to the more "heroic" medium of oil on canvas. But even in Renoir’s most significant, groundbreaking canvases, the artist would pay subtle homage to the still life—among the liveliest dances, the most intimate portraits or the happiest gatherings, one can easily spot a subtle yet colorful interaction between glasses, fruits, silverware or porcelain ware (see fig. 4). These examples, along with the present work, attest to the still life’s importance as a vehicle for Renoir’s own artistic experimentation, as well as the artist’s dedication to capturing the splendor of these ordinary yet beautiful moments in daily life.

This work will be included in the forthcoming Renoir Digital Catalogue Raisonné, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.