Paris’ legendary Ritz Hotel is not only known as the temporary home of the rich and famous but also of long lost art treasures. A major renovation of the historic hotel has unearthed a previously unknown painting attributed to the 17th century artist Charles Le Brun. Le Brun rose to fame as a Louis the XIV court painter, although historians date this work as having been completed prior to his appointment.
An expert in French art for Christie’s Auction house, Olivier Lefeuvre, was called to appraise and authenticate the piece. Lefeuvre told Agence France-Presse “I thought it was a Le Brun straight away,” he said. “It was very well preserved. It was really quite moving.”
The hotel building, The Place Vendôme, dates back to 1705. It was originally a home for French noblemen and was bought by the Swiss hotelier César Ritz in 1898 after which he converted it into a hotel. Yet the hotel archives held little information as to how the painting came to reside in the building. With no contemporary record of the painting, Christie’s has named the work “The Sacrifice of Polyxena” in accordance with the scene it depicts.
Interestingly, the Ritz Hotel became the headquarters during the Second World War for the German Luftwaffe, commanded by art afficionado and collector Hermann Goering. During the war Goering played a major role in the confiscation and acquisition of artwork from Jewish victims of the Holocaust. While no connections have been made it is a coincidence that deserves further exploration.
Christie’s of Paris is auctioning off the painting on April 13th. It is expected to fetch 500,000 euros (approximately $665,000 USD), which will be donated to the AlFayed Foundation which was founded by the UK businessman, Mohamed Al Fayed and owner of the hotel.