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The Scallop Shell: "Notre Avenir est dans l'Air"
Pablo Picasso
Paris, spring 1912
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Bourgeois Ainé

The oval strainer (fixed wooden frame) that supports the canvas of Picasso's The Scallop Shell: "Notre Avenir est dans l'Air" (1912) is stamped: 10 P / 55 x 38. This marking identifies the wooden armature as a landscape ([P]aysage format), measuring 55 centimeters wide by 38 centimeters high. At the time, French art supply shops offered pre-stretched canvases in three basic formats: P[aysage] (landscape), M[arine] (seascape), and F[igure] (portrait). The diamond-shaped logo featuring the letter "B" flanked by caducei, with the words "PARIS" at top and "DÉPOSÉE" at bottom, is an indication that the strainer was created and presumably sold by Bourgeois Ainé, an artist supply shop located in Paris near the Musée du Louvre.

Before opening the store in 1867, its founder François Alexandre Joseph Bourgeois (b. 1830) had invented alizarin lacquer, which led to the production of some of the first nontoxic paints. By 1898, Bourgeois Ainé was operating out of a storefront located at 18, rue Croix des Petits Champs (now 24, rue des Petits-Champs) and was affiliated with three factories in the outskirts of Paris. The shop's inventory expanded to include tubes of paint as well as a full array of artist supplies, ranging from specially designed paint boxes, brushes, pastels, watercolors, and easels, to stools, shade umbrellas, and a variety of canvases.

In 1965, Bourgeois Ainé merged with Lefranc et Cie to become Lefranc Bourgeois, a company that exists to this day.

For more information, see:

An online database of art suppliers in Paris between 1790 and 1960. Guide Labreuche: Guide Historique des Fournisseurs de Matériel pour artistes à Paris 1790–1960.

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