• France's news in English

'400-year-old painting' found in Paris Ritz

AFP · 23 Jan 2013, 14:24

Published: 23 Jan 2013 14:24 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Now, the giant tableau is to be sold by Christie's auctioneers and could raise up to 500,000 euros ($665,000) for the foundation established by owner Mohamed Al Fayed in memory of his son Dodi, the late boyfriend of Princess Diana.

The oil painting has been identified by experts as an early work by Le Brun (1619-1690) that would have been completed before he became the official painter at the court of Louis XIV and established his reputation as one of the dominant figures of 17th century French art.

It adorned one of the suites in which Coco Chanel lived for more than 30 years but when exactly it was installed in the hotel remains a mystery.

The building that houses the hotel on the swanky Place Vendome dates from 1705 and was initially a family home for French nobles. It became the Ritz after it was bought by Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz in 1898.

The hotel archives offer no clue as to how the painting ended up there, according to Christie's art advisor Joseph Friedman.

"When I saw this painting in the suite, I had to take a step back. It had a very powerful impact," Friedman told AFP. "The use of colour and the movement are remarkable. The influence of (Baroque master Nicolas) Poussin is obvious.

"A colleague then found the initials CLBF, which stand for Charles Le Brun Fecit (Le Brun did this) and a date, 1647."

Christie's then embarked on a process of consultation with relevant experts and although they have not found any contemporary record of the painting, "noone is in any doubt that it is a genuine Le Brun," according to Friedman.

The man who first spotted the painting was Olivier Lefeuvre, a Christie's France specialist in the period, who came across it in July, a month before the Ritz closed its doors for a two-year renovation.

"I thought it was a Le Brun straight away," he said. "It was very well preserved. It was really quite moving."

The painting depicts the killing of Trojan princess Polyxena after she was implicated in the death of Achilles. In the absence of any historical records, Christie's have named the painting as "The Sacrifice of Polyxena."

Story continues below…

According to Lefeuvre, Le Brun most likely painted the scene after a three-year stay in Rome where he studied the work of Raphael and became close to Poussin.

The painting is to go on display in New York next week and will be auctioned in Paris in April.

"Mohamed Al Fayed decided to sell it because he thinks its quality means it should be in a museum," Friedman said. "It deserves to be part of a major collection."

The hotel of choice of Charlie Chaplin and Ernest Hemingway, the Ritz is also infamous as the place where Dodi and Diana dined before their fatal car crash in 1997.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
The fantastic new Bordeaux wine museum. Photo: AFP

After The Local France, the Lonely Planet has followed suit by urging everyone to head to Bordeaux in 2017.

Jungle shacks set ablaze and torn down as camp razed
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: The razing of the Jungle has finally begun.

Frenchwoman finds WW1 grenade among her spuds
Photo: AFP

It could have been a very explosive family dinner.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

UK to spend €40 million on securing Calais border
Photo: AFP

Britain spending big on security in Calais.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available