Brame et Lorenceau will include this work in their forthcoming Fantin-Latour catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels.
When Fantin-Latour painted Pétunias doubles in 1888, he had been engaged in flower-painting for close to three decades. By this time he was widely acknowledged as the finest living painter of flowers, and was cited as such in publications on flower gardens, cultivation and arrangement. The artist occasionally wearied of this genre, by which he had secured for himself a dependable livelihood, because it took him away from working on the imaginary symbolist compositions which he hoped would ensure a lasting reputation. Ironically, it is the latter works, grandiose and Wagnerian, which have not dated well and are hardly known today, while his floral paintings seem perennially attractive and fresh, and have sustained the artist's fame to this day.
The present painting demonstrates Fantin-Latour's skill at creating elaborate still-life compositions that are especially inventive in their arrangements, and show no sign of routine. During the 1890s Fantin-Latour applied to his paintings a freedom of handling that could have only come from a lengthy tenure of mastery in this field; these paintings are "less rigid, perhaps," as Michel Hoog has written, "but just as carefully organized as those of the 1860s" (Fantin-Latour, exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1983, p. 341).
Marcel Proust, in his novel Le temps retrouvé, the final volume of his monumental A la recherche du temps perdu, described his fictional painter Elstir as "the artist who is cited by connoisseurs today as our leading flower-painter, superior even to Fantin-Latour" (trans. A. Mayor and T. Kilmartin, The Past Regained, London, 1981, p. 34). Writing some twenty years after Fantin's death, Proust was secure in the knowledge that Fantin-Latour's reputation was such that even his readers among a later generation would know of the painter's fame—and, as time would prove, many more down to the present day.