It is unlikely to find in Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s oeuvre a work that resembles this still life and it is almost impossible to determine its subject: is it a vase? A lamp? A piece of fruit? A reproduction of this symmetrical composition that recalls Antique Roman frescos was included in Marc Edler and Albert André’s L’Atelier de Renoir published in 1931 (Fig. 2), which inventoried Renoir’s studio after his death. The still life was later separated, as it was often the case for the artist’s studies, and sold by Galerie Barbazanges, as this archival photograph shows (Fig. 1).
The motif remains unusual in Renoir’s oeuvre and would have remained arcane without a photograph of the Renoir family taken in the artist’s studio in rue Caulaincourt in Paris around 1902-1903 (Fig. 3). Renoir had simply reproduced a motif he found on a piece of seemingly oriental textile visible behind the beret of his son Jean.