Art: Le Brun found in Ritz'z Coco Chanel suite

Louis's XIV painter, work to be auctioned by Christie's in April

23 January, 18:20

(ANSAmed) - PARIS, JANUARY 23 - It's the kind of once-in-a-lifetime find of which all art experts dream: a painting by Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), the first painter of Louis XIV (the Sun King), has been found in Paris's Ritz Hotel.

The hotel has been closed for renovations over the past few months. The find took everyone by surprise: the painting was neither hidden amid the attic's dust nor forgotten in the basement, but hung in full view on a wall of an elegant suite where Coco Chanel lived for over thirty years. Nevertheless, it escaped notice for a long time. It is due to be exhibited at New York's Rockfeller Center soon (January 26-29) and will then be auctioned off by Christie's on April 15. Its discovery is the merit of a number of Ritz experts who were drawing up an inventory of the artworks and furniture in the hotel located in Place Vendome and owned by the Egyptian billionaire Mohammed Al Fayed (it is also the place from which his son Dodi and Lady Diana left in their last and fatal car trip). The painting (179 x 131 cm) depicts the Sacrifice of Polysena, the beautiful Trojan princess and daughter of Priam and Hecuba, as described by Ovid in his Metamorphoses. It is one of Le Brun's first paintings, dating back to the years in which the young painter left for Rome to complete his studies. He stayed in the city for three years (1642-1646). It was later that Charles Le Brun became the personal painter of Louis XIV and was tasked by him with the creation of the Louvre and, of course, the Palace of Versailles. ''When I saw the painting, I took a step backwards. The impact with the work was considerable and the treatment of the colours and movements surprising,'' the Ritz's artistic advisor Joseph Friedman told the French media. Friedman and his colleague Wanda Tymowska noted the initials CLBF on the painting, which stand for ''Charles Le Brun Fecit'' (''Charles Le Brun made this'') and a date, 1647. The work was later analysed by other experts, dispelling all doubts over its authenticity. Christie's expects the painting to draw in between 300,000 and 500,000 euros, and the proceeds from the sale will go to the Dodi Al Fayed Foundation. The Ritz's archives give no clue as to how or when the painting was purchased, nor why it was in Coco Chanel's suite, where the designer lived until her death in 1971. After reporting the lucky find today, Christie's noted that the painting was most likely already on the premises when the Swiss businessman Cesar Ritz took on ownership in 1898.

Since August 1, the Paris hotel that has welcomed the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Marcel Proust and Ernest Hemingway over the years has been closed for massive renovation works costing 140 million euros. (ANSAmed).

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