This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue critique of Pierre-Auguste Renoir being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute established from the archives of François Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein.
Still life occupies a prominent position in Renoir's work from the early 1880s onward. Among the most academic of the Impressionists, Renoir is frequently remembered as a painter of the female figure. Although he recommended to Manet's niece Julie to paint still life "in order to teach yourself to paint quickly" (quoted in J. Manet, Journal, 1893-1899, Paris, n.d., p. 190), the numerous works, often elaborate and ambitious, which Renoir executed in this genre over the course of his career attest to his sustained interest in still life as an end in itself. Indeed, it was in his still life compositions that Renoir pursued some of his most searching investigations of the effects of light and color on objects and surfaces.
As with Cézanne, another devotee of the still life subject, the masters of French eighteenth-century painting exerted a strong influence on Renoir. While his figure pictures looked towards Watteau and Boucher, his still lifes found their inspiration in Chardin's unique vision. Discussing Renoir's pictorial dialogue with Chardin, Charles Sterling has rendered a statement of Renoir's achievement in still life which could well describe the present painting: "Nurtured on the traditions of eighteenth-century French painting, Renoir made no attempt to energize his compositions, as Monet did, but carried on the serene simplicity of Chardin... Pale shadows, light as a breath of air, faintly ripple across the perishable jewel of a ripe fruit. Renoir reconciles extreme discretion with extreme richness, and his full-bodied density is made up, it would seem, of colored air. This is a lyrical idiom hitherto unknown in still life, even in those of Chardin. Between these objects and us there floats a luminous haze through which we distinguish them, tenderly united in a subdued shimmer of light" (Still Life in Painting from Antiquity to the Present Time, Paris, 1959, p. 100).