A monumental 17th century painting was discovered behind a false partition during the renovation of the future fashion boutique Oscar de la Renta, located on Rue de Marignan in Paris. The expert Stéphane Pinta revealed that it was a work of 1674 made by a collaborator of Charles Le Brun.
The discovery, announced by the New York Times a few days ago and then relayed in the Daily Of Art, was a well-kept secret. The work has been known to the CEO of the luxury brand for almost a year, but it had formally prohibited anyone from revealing its existence, in order to coincide the news with the start of Paris Fashion Week.
The shop was due to open this week, allowing Oscar de la Renta to have a foothold in the French capital during the most anticipated fashion shows of the year, although the brand does not have a show to its credit. Only last year, during the renovations of the new 4 rue de Marignan space, the director of the brand, Alex Bolen, received a call from his architect, who asked him to go there immediately to judge a “discovery”.
The construction workers were put on the trail of the painting by noticing the existence of a 19th century panelling ceiling, consisting of 29 square panels encrusted and painted with heraldic seals, preserved for decades under a second ceiling. It was by knocking down a partition a little later that the team discovered a painting of six meters by three meters, blackened by time, extending over the entire surface of the wall. Riders wearing 17th-century clothing are depicted in front of the city of Jerusalem, whose mosque can be discerned in the distance.
Renovation work was immediately halted, delaying the opening of the shop until May 2019, in order to restore the damaged paint. While discoveries are quite common in castles or other historical monuments, they are much less so in this type of space, said Nathalie Ryan, the brand’s architect. Bolen had rented this old apartment, in an immutable that he considered “un charmless”, knowing that everything had to be redone.
Following the discovery, the CEO called on Stéphane Pinta, an expert in master paintings at Turquin, who established that it was a 1674 oil on canvas painted by Arnould de Vuez, a Flemish artist who worked for the court of King Louis XIV on the side Charles Le Brun.s. Pinta traced the origin of the masterpiece through a book by Albert Vandal recounting the travels of Charles-Marie-François Olier, Marquis de Nointel and Angervilliers, and Louis XIV’s ambassador to Palestine. A print similar to the large painting appears on page 129 of the book: it depicts the Marquis of Nointel arriving in Jerusalem accompanied by his cavalry, during a tour of the Middle East in 1673.
Since the masterpiece was glued to the wall, experts decreed that it would be too dangerous to try to move it. As a good businessman, Bolen negotiated with the owner of the building to keep the work in the shop once it was opened (the rental is planned for 10 years), offering in return the full support of its restoration.
Restorer Benoît Janson and his team have been working for several months to ensure the restoration of the painting, considered “rare and exceptional in many respects”. According to Janson, the painting has already undergone several renovations. Most of the work now involves removing the various layers of varnish that cover its surface and regaining its original colours. The long process should be finished for the month of May, in time for the opening of the shop which, thanks to a stroke of fate, will be absolutely unique of its kind.