The Indépendant Catalan : Benoit Janson at the bedside of a Calder stable in Perpignan

Calder’s stabile, estimated at nearly 5 million euros, finally auscultated.


Benoit Janson and the team of restorers auscultate the “Broken Wings”, Calder’s stabile installed on the forecourt of the Saint-Exupéry college in Perpignan. Photo Olivier Got.

The Department appointed the art restorer Benoit JANSON and 2 other specialists for an audit of the stabile of Alexander Calder, tagged and mistreated, in front of the Saint-Exupéry college. The stakes are high: a sculpture from the same series was sold for nearly 5 million euros last July.

The “Broken wings” have been suffering for several years on the forecourt of the Saint-Exupéry college, opposite the Moulin-à-Vent aquatic area in Perpignan. The work of Calder, a major American sculptor of the 20th century, is tagged, degraded, unbolted and poorly maintained. Several initiatives have tried to mobilize around this stable copy of the mobile specialist.

And there, a hope arises …

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THE HUFFINGTON POST : Inside the studio of Benoit Janson, Art restorer in Paris

Inside the studio of Benoît Janson,
wizard in contemporary art conservation

(Article published in the Huffington Post on October 9th, 2012; written by Alexia Guggémos, translated into english by Alexia Soldano)

“I am an illusionist!” states Benoit Janson, 53 years old, when trying to define his work. His job: art conservator. In his studio-practice of the rue Jean Bologne in Paris, this contemporary art emergency-doctor has saved close to a thousand artworks, victims of shock or attacked by micro-organisms from a basement. With his round glasses and his white coat, you could even call him Doc!

Trained alongside his fellow experts and conservators of the IFROA (Institut Français de Restauration d’œuvres d’Art – French institute of artwork conservation) from 1978, Benoît Janson is the son of surrealist painter Marc Janson, whose work was notably featured in the gallery François Petit (famous for its last show of Max Ernst works). “I grew up surrounded by cans of paint, he tells us. As a little boy, I already dreamed of collaborating with artists.” (photo: Benoît Janson in front of a work by Wang Dajun)

At the age of 5, Benoît Janson started growing admiration for the Romanian surrealist painter Victor Brauner. As a fan of Poliakoff, he knows every little working secret of the artist and treated over a hundred of his works. It was out of passion that he became an expert of the Figuration Narrative movement. From the style and period he can recognize the solid colours of an Adami, thick and dense, from those of a Télémaque, transparent and subtle. French
painter Pierre Soulages asks him to take care of the restoration of his works. “I recreate the artist’s touch with my methods and my own tools.” Tar is his sworn enemy. “Worst of all, are mixtures!”
Going to Saint-Martin de Bréhal (in the low Normandy region) to collect the same sand as Chinese artist Kim Tschang Yeul to fill material, or hunt a mercury vapour bulb to restore a Télélumière by Takis; explore shops on all corners of France to track down a plastic funeral wreath – identical to the one used by Jean-Pierre Raynaud in the seventies… This constitutes Benoit Janson’s daily routine.

At the back of his studio, a painting by Peter Klasen, which was slightly warped and in need of consolidation, is temporarily stretched. It will require several resin impregnations in order to stabilize the canvas. On the workbench, a plaster cast by Jean Arp fractured in several places and a metal wire sculpture.
“It is an unexpected work by Jacques Villeglé. The artist found this twisted wire in a blockhaus on the DDay beaches of Normandy, I have to re-weld it…”, he says. Elsewhere, materials of all sorts, such as horsehair to reconstitute the tail of an “injured” horse by Jean-François Fourtou. When faced with a tear, such as one found in a painting by Jean Hélion, he masters the thread to thread technique, which is to reposition the threads of the canvas in their right place, sometimes even restoring past restorations. (photo: the hands of Julie treating an artwork by Niki de Saint Phalle)

Benoit Janson’s recommandations are precious: avoid cotton canvases privileged by the great american artists of the New York school, and prefer linen or hemp. Be careful with plastic materials which are an inadequate support for acrylic paint. Neon lights, as another example, can only live about thirty years depending on the conservation conditions. Only the design drawing, used to create the work, can guarantee the lifespan of an installation to recreate it authentically if necessary. “With every artwork, conservation is a challenge and an adventure!”

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Barneby’s: Discovery of a painting from Le Brun’s school behind a false partition

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.

Arnoult de Vuez, The Embassy of Charles Marie Olier, marqui sde Nointel, Palestine, 1674, oil on canvas, discovered in the Oscar de La Renta boutique in Paris, image ©Julien Mignot/NYT-REDUX-REA
Arnoult de Vuez, The Embassy of Charles Marie Olier, marquis de Nointel, In Palestine, 1674, oil on canvas, discovered in the Oscar de La Renta boutique in Paris, image ©Julien Mignot/NYT-REDUX-REA.

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”.

Image©Julien Mignot for The New York Times
Image©Julien Mignot for The New York Times.

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.

Restaurateur Benoît Janson at work, image ©Julien Mignot for The New York Times
Restorer Benoît Janson at work, image ©Julien Mignot for The New York Times.

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.

The team hopes to finish the restorations by May 2019, image ©Julien Mignot for The New York Times
The team hopes to complete the restorations by May 2019, image © Mignot Ledian for The New York Times.

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.

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Courrier International: An exceptional 17th century painting hidden in a Parisian boutique

This 17th century painting was discovered during work for the Oscar de la Renta boutique in Paris. Julien Mignot/The New York Times.

During work, workers discovered a painting executed under Louis XIV, The New York Times reported. Six meters long, the painting was hidden behind a wooden panel in Parisian offices being transformed for the boutique of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.

The new American luxury boutique was due to open this week for paris fashion shows, but Oscar de la Renta’s general manager, Alex Bolen, was forced to change his plans, Reports The New York Times.

Last summer, Nathalie Ryan, the architect in charge of the works, announced by telephone that he had made “a discovery” that he had to come and see for himself in Paris. On the second floor of the building of the future store in the middle of construction, Alex Bolen discovers at the bottom of the room an oil painting of three meters by six meters depicting a French nobleman, on horseback, surrounded by courtiers entering Jerusalem.

“It’s very rare and exceptional in many ways,” Benoît Janson, who oversees the restoration of the work, told the New York Times, “by its historical and aesthetic quality as well as its size.”

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France Inter: A treasure hidden behind the wall

A 17th century painting discovered by chance in a shop in Paris

by Delphine Evenou published on October 21, 2019 at 6:04 a.m.

During the interior works in of a Parisian luxury clothing boutique, the architects discovered, hidden behind a brick wall, a monumental canvas.

The Marquis of Nointel arriving in Jerusalem
The Marquis de Nointel arriving in Jerusalem © Radio France / Delphine Evenou

The canvas is six meters long and three meters high
. It could have stayed out of the light and the eyes for a very long time, if the fashion house Oscar de la Renta had not decided to open its first boutique in Paris rue de Marignan, a stone’s throw from the Champs-Élysées. During the restructuring and landscaping, the architects knocked down a brick wall. Behind is another wall, covered with what looks like an old painting.

An all-black picture

“The painting was all black, but my instinct told me there was something behind it,” recalls restorer Benoît Janson, who was able to see the work “in his juice”. Oscar de la Renta’s general manager, Alex Bolen, clearly had the same intuition: when the discovery was announced, he jumped on a plane from the United States. When he arrived in Paris, he decided to finance the restoration of the painting, to the tune of tens of thousands of euros.

The canvas sits at the bottom of the Oscar de la Renta wedding dress salon
The canvas sits at the bottom of the wedding dress room Oscar de la Renta / Delphine Evenou

For six months, with his team, Benoît Janson will lighten the old varnish, remove the layers of paint dating from previous renovations, also retouch the areas of the painting. After careful work, the gigantic canvas regains its original brilliance and delivers its story, or at least a part.

The work has not delivered all its secrets

The painting, dated 1673, depicts the Marquis of Nointel and his escort upon their arrival in Jerusalem. French Ambassador to the Middle East, Charles Marie François Olier, whose real name is Charles Marie François Olier, was sent by Louis XIV to establish trade links. The author of the work, however, remains difficult to determine: it could be Arnould de Vuez or Jacques Carrey, both students of Charles Le Brun’s school.

This painting is part of a set of four paintings on display on the walls of the apartments of the Marquis de Nointel in Constantinople, before his mission as a diplomat ended and the paintings, rolled on themselves, dispersed. One of the works is in the Athens Museum, two others have disappeared. The last one is now in a boutique in the chic districts of Paris, amidst the luxurious Oscar de la Renta wedding dresses.

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The New York Times on Benoit JANSON: The treasure behind the wall

The treasure hidden behind a wall
(The treasure behind the wall By Vanessa Friedman)

Something in the new Oscar de la Renta boutique in Paris was not what it seemed.

Photo credit Julien Mignot for The New York Times

Alex Bolen, the chief executive of Oscar de la Renta, planned to have his new store in Paris open around this week, just in time for the couture shows. He planned to have a presence in the city even if he didn’t have a show. He had it all figured out.

Then, last summer, in the middle of renovations, Mr. Bolen got a call from his architect, Nathalie Ryan.

“‘We made a discovery,’” he remembered her saying. On the other end of the phone, Mr. Bolen cringed. The last time he received a call like that about a store, their plans to move a wall had to be scrapped because of fears the building would collapse. He asked what, exactly, the discovery was.

“You have to come and see,” she told him.

So, gritting his teeth, he got on a plane from New York. Ms. Ryan took him to the second floor of what would be the shop, where workers were busily clearing out detritus, and gestured toward the end of the space. Mr. Bolen, she said, blinked. Then he said: “No, it’s not possible.”

Something had been hidden behind a wall, and it wasn’t asbestos. It was a 10-by-20-foot oil painting of an elaborately coifed and dressed 17th-century marquis and assorted courtiers entering the city of Jerusalem.

“It’s very rare and exceptional, for many reasons,” said Benoît Janson, of the restoration specialists Nouvelle Tendance, who is overseeing work on the canvas. Namely, “its historical and aesthetic quality and size.”
Boutique renovations, like most renovations, are often delayed. They frequently run over budget. But rarely are they delayed and over budget because a mysterious artwork more than three centuries old has resurfaced.

In the arms race for the most unique! most authentic! store currently underway, when only-in-person experience is what differentiates retail from e-tail, a cultural treasure surrounded by a puzzle straight out of a Dan Brown novel may be the ultimate accessory.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Mr. Bolen had been looking for a store in Paris for a long time. In the early 1990s, the company had a small boutique in the city during Mr. de la Renta’s tenure as couturier of Balmain, but the boutique closed after he left the brand in 2002. (He died in 2014.)

In 2017, Mr. Bolen was offered the former Reed Krakoff store on Rue de Marignan, a diagonal side street off the luxury thoroughfare Avenue Montaigne, which terminates on one end at L’Avenue, the high-fashion canteen.

Mr. Bolen liked the location, and the building, which had been built in the 19th century and remained largely in the hands of one family, many of whom still lived in the upstairs apartments. Still, he wanted a larger site, and when the office space that spanned the second floor became available, he grabbed it.

“It was pretty charmless,” he said. A former insurance brokerage, it had a dropped ceiling with fluorescent lighting, particleboard walls and industrial carpeting in its rabbit warren of offices. “We knew we’d have to take everything out,” Mr. Bolen said.

The idea was to link the two floors with a grand staircase. The ground floor and part of the second would serve as the boutique, and a room at the end would be used as a showroom and event space, with other space for offices and storage.

The interior, designed by Jeang Kim and Will Kim of Oro Studio, would feel less like a big white box than a home for “young people who had just moved into their grandmother’s grand apartment,” according to Ms. Kim (who is also the sister of Oscar de la Renta’s co-creative director Laura Kim; she is not related to Mr. Kim).

Photo credit Julien Mignot for The New York Times

Benoît Janson, restoration specialist, working on painting. The restoration is expected to be done by May. Photo credit Julien Mignot for The New York Times

Not long after the demolition began, a discovery was made. A workman, tearing down the dropped ceiling in the last room on the second floor, said there was something “strange.”

That would be a paneled ceiling that had been underneath the visible one, composed of 29 inset squares, eight of them painted with different heraldic seals, and a central diamond. Dating from the mid-19th-century, they were well preserved since they had been recessed within the coffers of the ceiling.

Still, while that was an interesting reveal, it was not unprecedented in a building of that age. It was when workers began removing the particleboard along the side and a chunk of the wall came off too that things got interesting.
“Oh my God, it was — wow,” said Ms. Ryan, who was the in-house architect for Dior for many years and opened her own company, Kirei Studio, in 2010.

Behind the wall a single painting, dark with age, ran from end to end. “Sometimes when you work on castles, you find something, but usually it’s a hidden fireplace, or in Italy, maybe a fresco,” Ms. Ryan said. “But in an apartment? In a store?” She had never seen anything like it.

“Everyone freaked out,” Ms. Kim said. “It was like finding a mummy. I turned off my phone immediately and just looked at it. Nothing like this had ever happened in my work before.”

Demolition was halted to figure out what the painting was and how it came to be in what was about to be a shop. Seeing the aristocrats on horseback and the mosque in the picture, Mr. Bolen said, visions of Crusaders and Knights Templar began to dance in his head. “I think maybe I have seen too many movies,” he said.

A Whodunit

In the game of six degrees of separation, this was a good one: Mr. Bolen’s mother-in-law, Annette de la Renta, had cousins (via her mother, Jane Engelhard) who had married into the de La Rochefoucauld family, storied members of the French aristocracy. One of those family members happened to live across the street from the new de la Renta boutique.

So when the painting was found, and it became clear Mr. Bolen would have to talk to the building’s owners, whom he had never met (the lease had been negotiated through a broker), his relative was able to make the introductions. Another de La Rochefoucauld, who happened to work at the Louvre, got a recommendation for an art historian: Stephane Pinta of the Cabinet Turquin, an expert in old-master paintings.

Mr. Pinta determined that the painting was an oil on canvas created in 1674 by Arnould de Vuez, a painter who worked with Charles Le Brun, the first painter to Louis XIV and designer of interiors of the Château de Versailles. After working with Le Brun, de Vuez, who was known for getting involved in duels of honor, was forced to flee France and ended up in Constantinople.

Mr. Pinta traced the painting to a plate that was reproduced in the 1900 book “Odyssey of an Ambassador: The Travels of the Marquis de Nointel, 1670-1680” by Albert Vandal, which told the story of the travels of Charles-Marie-François Olier, Marquis de Nointel et d’Angervilliers, Louis XIV’s ambassador to the Ottoman Court. On Page 129, there is a rotogravure of an artwork depicting the Marquis de Nointel arriving in Jerusalem with great pomp and circumstance — the painting on the wall.

But how it ended up glued to that wall, no one knew, nor why it was covered up. There was speculation that maybe it happened during World War II, given the setting. It could be “a fog-of-war issue,” Mr. Bolen said.

What everyone did know was that it would be dangerous to move because of how the painting had been attached to wall: backed by gauze and glued on. And, Mr. Bolen said, his wife, Eliza, told him, “If you move that painting, you will have 100 years of bad luck.” He thought she was probably right.

The Next Mystery

Instead, Mr. Bolen reached an agreement with the building’s owners: He would restore the painting if they agreed to let it remain in the store while the store was a tenant (the initial lease is for 10 years). Mr. Janson got to work in late November.

“It was very dark because of all the overpaint from earlier restorations and varnish,” Mr. Janson said.

For the last two months, a team of three to five people have laboriously swabbed away some of the varnish to allow the colors to come through. They hope to be finished by May, Mr. Janson said, though Mr. Bolen believes it will be sooner than that. Slowly, details that confirmed the painting’s provenance have begun to emerge: the mosque, the Western Wall, the elaborate brocades of the visiting Frenchmen.

The discovery demanded something of a interior rethink as well as some practical changes. Ms. Kim has been haunting auctions for furniture from different periods to link past to present, including Marcel Breuer chairs and pieces from Pierre Bergé’s estate.

“We’re not going to put a wall of dresses in front,” Ms. Ryan said. Security will be increased, and the 10 floor-to-ceiling windows on the second floor equipped with treated glass. The plan is to open in late spring.
In the meantime, Mr. Bolen has not given up the search. “I need to get a heraldic expert in to look at the ceiling,” he said, sifting through photographs and pointing at some of the shields. “That one has three stars, a royal crown — and fish?”

He looked at another one. “What do those three stars mean?” he wondered. “I don’t know. But that’s worth finding out.” He looked excited.

Shoppers with a yen for a conspiracy theory or a taste of history may be, too.

Benoit JANSON and his team. Photo credit Julien Mignot for The New York Times

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Art Insider: Benoit Janson, art restorer in Paris

How long have you been a restorer of works of art?

I started catering at 19, in 1978, after my parents, who were painters, asked me to choose a path. I did not have a state degree. I was trained with a conservator, Édouard Déchelette, a rentoileur at the Louvre and a professor at the French Institute for the Restoration of Works of Art (IFROA) which opened the same year.

Didn’t you want to be an artist like your parents?

Not. Whereas I was born in a pot of paint! When I was a child, my father was in contact with many intellectuals like Roland Barthes, André Pieyre de Mandiargues, Patrick Waldberg… I was surrounded by paintings and books. From the age of 6, I was flipping through the books and decreed that my favorite painter was Victor Brauner. But I wasn’t brilliant in my studies. When my parents asked me what I wanted to do, I immediately said, “restoration.” It was clear to me. My father had a creative soul. He had more imagination, an inner reflection and could shape an idea in a painting. I do not have that ability. I was more into observing and decomposing materials. This is the first thing that attracted me when I started in the restaurant industry: to be in search of the artist’s veracity and technique. I’m not here to betray him, or to put myself in his shoes. A restaurateur must not bring something, but blend in and respect his creation. I had the chance to meet a generous restaurateur who wanted to help and share his know-how. He trusted me, gave me a lot of freedom, and it gave me confidence.

When did you open your own workshop?

In 1989, I gradually gained my independence while continuing to work in the workshop with Edward. I had a studio in Montparnasse, furnished with a large bed and two easels. An intern came to work there in the morning. My training alongside Edward was more concerned with painting of the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. At the same time, I was interested in modern and contemporary painting. In 1978, university courses were quite restrictive in this field, more focused on ancient painting. A modern and contemporary branch was missing.

How does the restoration of ancient painting differ from that of modern or contemporary art?

We had more scientific hindsight in terms of ancient materials and works, whereas modern and contemporary painting used new materials that we didn’t know much about. We were embarking on a kind of adventure. My training, classical and scientific, gave me a rigor, ethics and ethics for the realization of the restoration of modern and contemporary works. If we generalize, an old painting is based on a stratigraphy and materials always more or less similar despite technical developments. While a modern or contemporary work is made up of recent industrial materials as varied as surprising. Right now, we have two paintings by Georges Mathieu from 1970 and 1979 in the workshop. Let us take the example of these works, whose surface appearance is matte. If, by chance, you intended to make it “beautiful”, it would imply a stroke of varnish to give it more sparkle. It would mean damaging the painting and betraying the artist’s original intention. In addition, chance also plays a good part, because it is a spontaneous and gestural painting. We cannot reproduce this gestuality in restoration in the same way as the artist, but we must take it into consideration. Several factors are taken into account in the restoration: the technique used by the artist, the materials used, the conservation environment of the work (movement, humidity, etc.) and the resulting alterations. “A restaurateur must not bring something, but blend in and respect his creation.”

What types of works and damage do you face most frequently?

I consider myself a “specialized generalist.” Today, I deal mostly with modern and contemporary art, but we continue to deal with ancient paintings because it is my heart of learning. We work in oil, acrylic, vinyl, glycerophthalic, airbrush, as well as resin, wood, ceramics, metal, paper, etc. Our experience in all kinds of media allows us to address virtually everything. I created the workshop to exchange and work as a team and do not see the job of restaurateur as an isolated craftsman, in front of his easel, keeping his secrets. Each member of the team arrives with his personality, his specialty, and that’s the whole point. We can talk and we move forward together. If I feel that we do not have the capacity to do an intervention, I do not hesitate to work with specialists. Our job is to make a work without us speaking to the naked eye. Although I do not hide it, since I transmit reports of expertise, conditions, status statements, which explain the methodology of the intervention and the result before/after.

“Like a spy, I would go into the workshops and write down all the products they used. »

If we imagine today the restoration of a contemporary work, often more tinkered, at least less traditional than the old painting in its manufacture, would it be wrong to think that this work will be less easy to restore?

It is true that artists are generally more interested in the process of creating and rendering their works than in the composition of the materials used. I guess they don’t necessarily think about the sustainability of their works. It is the restaurateurs who generally realize that the materials are not suitable at all. There is indeed this “do-it-yourself” aspect, although I do not like the term. With the experience of all the materials we use, we learn to mix them together and incorporate them in order to achieve a consistent result. From a scientific point of view, it is true that we have less hindsight. We don’t know what our work will look like in 50 or 100 years (this is the estimated duration of a restoration). Beyond that, will our restoration influence the preservation of a work or will it be the artist’s materials that will continue to evolve badly?

What are the basic materials of a restoration?

When it comes to retouching and reintegration onto boards, pigment is the starting point. It’s the basis of all colors. We either mix them with the right binders, or we buy the products assembled commercially. In any case, we are guided by ethics and ethics, that is, we try to use materials that are reversible over time, that can be removed overnight without altering the original painting. As for contemporary art, we are sometimes forced to use products that we do not know how reliable in the long term and which may pose some problems. On the other hand, these products allow us to arrive at a result of good quality in aesthetic terms, which is most frequently requested for modern and contemporary works.

We know you for having, among other things, restored many works of narrative Figuration…

Yes, it is true that I dealt with a number of pieces from the Narrative Figuration in the early 1980s. As I went to the galleries, I saw artists emerge. Typically, when I saw a job like Peter Klasen’s, I thought we’d struggle to restore these kinds of works! Because they are part of an unusual technique, which is the airbrush. In this, I consider myself an avant-garde of the modern and contemporary, because I went to see all the artists of the Narrative Figuration – Adami, Monory and others – in order to try to understand their way of painting. Like a spy, I would go into the workshops and write down all the products they used. We ended up working together because they realized that I was interested in their work. They had the ability to create, but not all of them had the ability to restore. I became their regular restaurateur. Ditto for Soulages. My studio, including my collaborator Julie, has restored more than a hundred of her works from the 1950s. We also work a lot with the Niki de Saint Phalle committee and have seen superb old works that are also in their hundreds.

What are the profiles of customers who come to drop you off works to restore?

I work a lot with merchants, public sales, institutions that are the originators of all the paintings that are in commerce and in museums. They are obviously in the front row to release masterpieces. I then work directly with collectors who want to be concerned about the conservation of their works, as well as in the past with museums, mainly those of the City of Paris. I was certainly the only non-graduate who worked for museums! Today, it would be impossible to exercise without the required pedigree of the perfect restaurateur and curator. Finally, my training – that is, experience – is not so bad! I am fortunate to have been able to work with museums and on the most beautiful paintings that exist in the world. And it goes on. It’s the work of a team. All this is also thanks to my collaborators.

Restoration has to come at a cost. Don’t we tend to delay the deadline?

Indeed, restoration is not a necessity. A painting can remain in its state for 10, 20 or 30 years without any intervention. If this is a structural problem, there is an urgency that should not be overlooked. Collectors who are true enthusiasts consider that there is a need, no matter what it costs, almost. The price of a restaurant is always a prerequisite. But generally, they consider it necessary to keep.

What is the price range of a restaurant?

The first restaurant price here starts at 230 euros, a flat rate for a small intervention that does not require much time. Some restorations can reach larger sums, from 1,000 to 50,000 euros. It all depends on the number of hours spent responding, the complexity of the intervention, and it is sometimes quite difficult to quantify them. But I am one of those restaurateurs who, barring an exceptional problem, rarely change their quote.

Are you a collector?

Yes, it’s my vice! I’ve been collecting since I was 16. I have many paintings and sculptures, rather modern and contemporary. In the years 1978-1980, as a teenager, I went to galleries all the time to look at the works, for personal pleasure. The merchants saw that I was passionate and let me pay several times. I have many paintings by my father, Marc Janson. As he has always sold everything he painted, I bought it in auction rooms or from collectors to build up a collection of the most representative. I think he is a very good painter, both technically and aesthetically. I also had the pleasure of acquiring works by many artists. I am very open to many forms and am more and more eclectic in my favorites.

Le Parisien on Benoit JANSON: a work of art found by chance

In Paris, the incredible story of a
artwork found by chance

Eric Le Mitouard February 2019

Who is the painter of this formidable canvas of 6 m long found, by chance, on the construction site of the future shop Oscar de la Renta, rue de Marignan.

Experts can’t believe their eyes. On the vast construction site of the future Oscar de la Renta boutique, workers and architects discovered a 17th century painting. Restored, it now reveals all its splendour.

The construction of major works was underway this summer in the future shop Oscar de la Renta, an American luxury clothing brand that was to make the event by moving to 4 rue de Marignan (VIII). It was even planned to do the fashion week shows there this week, once the work was completed. All this was before the discovery of a master’s canvas, of a student of Le Brun, glued to the wall, behind poorly joined panels. A work that is now imposed in a room under construction, with its scaffolding and its plastic protections.

“We were in the middle of a curettage operation. The wooden panels were removed from the upstairs room and came across this painting,” says one member of interior designer Nathalie Ryan’s team. A brake on the construction site. A big step in the history of art.

Immediately, Alex Bolen, the ceo of Oscar de la Renta, was notified of the discovery. He immediately took a plane from New York and landed in Paris to admire this painting that had passed through three and a half centuries. “When we found it, it was totally fouled,” says a site manager.

Oscar de la Renta’s management quickly recruited a restaurateur, Benoit Janson. And the renaissance, for two months, allows to admire this 17th century painting with its original colors that gradually reappear… despite the old repainted, and the restoration work in progress.

Benoit Janson, conservation and restoration expert in Paris, at work./LP/Eric Le Mitouard.

Restaurateur and historians then investigate this mysterious painting 6 m long by 3 high… which even crosses the floor of the 1st floor about thirty centimeters. An exceptional dimension that could still have been completely erased from the history of art if the work had not been undertaken with care.

This is the story of an ambassador of Louis XIV in Constantinople

“Originally, this work was presented on a frame. The canvas was then dismantled and rolled before being marbled on this wall, says Benoit Janson, an expert in conservation and restoration in Paris. The work was done at the time in the rules of the art, with good grip and applied to the wall in a very flat way. The varnish had yellowed and was totally oxidized. The colors are totally off.” The clogging of time had done its job. “Today, we see the beautiful aesthetic quality of the painting and its good technical quality,” he points out.

While the construction site is forbidden to the public and the ensign Oscar de la Renta tried to keep the information secret – while informing the New York Times – art historians are flocking to the site with their certainties… and many questions.

In terms of certainties, it is the description of the work: Charles Marie François Olier, Marquess of Nointel, ambassador to Constantinople of Louis XIV, is shown there with his escort in front of Jerusalem. Riders are dressed in the fashion of the Great Century entering the city. The ramparts, the Omar Mosque and the Wailing Wall can be seen in the distance. The spirit is orientalist and the vegetation lush.

Another painting at the Athens Museum

The Marquis de Nointel is known for having four large paintings made about his epics in the Middle East in 1673. They were installed on four large walls of a ceremonial salon in Constantinople. On his return to France, at the end of his duties, he won all his collections, some of which are currently at the Louvre. He would have rolled his canvases. “One of them is currently in the Museum of Athens. The second is here, while two others have disappeared, says Guy Meyer, researcher and art specialist, for whom this discovery “is a historical event, totally improbable”.

For him, this mansion would have belonged in 1850, to the banker Mosselman who installed the canvas in his living room. Was it he who decided to give a fresh start to his interior decoration by veiling the painting? Did he want to hide it? Anyway, now unveiled, the painting still keeps its secrets.

Who painted this work?

For we must now attribute this painting to a painter. Two names are fighting in a duel. Jacques Carrey drew the life of the Ottoman world in the footsteps of the Marquis de Nointel. Others believe that the author of this work would more surely be the painter Arnould de Vuez, close to Charles Le Brun at the court of Louis XIV. He too took part in a study trip to Constantinople organized by the Marquis of Nointel.

Today, the museum of the history of France in Versailles, the curators want to be careful before having expertized the work … Untransportable.

The layout of the future Store Oscar de la Renta is reviewed is corrected. “We’re going to totally restore this picture. It will be located in the showroom for wedding dresses and evening gowns,” it is revealed on the spot. A lounge open by invitation.

Click here to see the original article in Le Parisien newspaper.