Still Life with Carp
49.21 x 59.05 cm (19 3/8 x 23 1/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Visitor Center (130.10)
After a painting in the Musée de Clamecy at Nevers
Six versions of this composition by the Alsatian artist Sebastian Stoskopff are known. This painting is one of two faithful iterations created by the little-known Dijon artist Pierre Nichon. There is no firm evidence indicating the reason for the great popularity of the image, although the dramatic use of light and the naturalistic depiction of the carp are certainly arresting. It is likely that the composition had symbolic significance. As a common symbol for Christ, the fish probably refers to the Eucharist, and the smoldering candle alludes to the transience of human life. Through the combination of these motifs, the painting arguably depicts Christian redemption without the inclusion of traditional Catholic religious symbols. Such an image may have resonated strongly with the relatively small Protestant minority in Alsace.
Lower left: P Nichon F
Art dealer, Dijon; by 1951, sold by the dealer to Jean Neger, Paris; sold by Neger to an unknown art dealer [see note 1]. Private collection, Paris [see note 2]. 1963, Heim Gallery, Paris; 1963, sold by Heim to the MFA for $5,000. (Accession Date: November 13, 1963)
 Neger, an art dealer, lent the painting to the exhibition "Natures Mortes Françaises du XVIIème Siècle à nos jours" (Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 1951), no. 129, according to a letter from Colette Ducluzeau, Galerie Charpentier (October 1, 1964). Ms. Ducluzeau indicated that Neger said he acquired the painting from a small dealer in Dijon and sold it to another dealer. In a letter to the MFA (July 26, 1964), Dirk Hannema said that he recalled seeing "two still lifes of the same subject with the art dealer Neger" in 1949, but he did not identify either one with the MFA composition. He also said he believed that the MFA painting was once in the R. Payelle collection, a suggestion which has been repeated in literature on the picture. However, the Payelle painting was sold November 23, 1972, Palais Galliera, Paris, lot 46, and therefore cannot be identical with the one at the MFA, acquired in 1963. See Pierre Rosenberg, "France in the Golden Age: A Postscript," Metropolitan Museum of Art Journal 17 (1982): p. 32, cat. no. 75.  According to information provided by Heim at the time of the painting's acquisition.
Francis Welch Fund