A family of mice buried in the walls or some untreated woodworm in the basement. Just a few nasty discoveries you might make when moving into a new house. Sometimes, you can strike it rich like luxury fashion brand Oscar de la Renta, which discovered a 17th century painting hidden behind the walls of its new store in Paris.
The extraordinary 10-by-20-foot oil painting was uncovered by workers while converting the 19th century property on the Rue de Marignan into a new Oscar de la Renta boutique. When they removed a wooden partition they found padded cloth behind it. Beneath the cloth lay an enormous canvas glued to the wall.
Blackened by dirt, the painting was nonetheless found in remarkably good condition. “It is so rare to find an artwork of this age in such a good state,” art restorer Benoît Janson explained, “It is absolute bliss, this inexplicable holy grail”. Restoration work by Janson and his Paris workshop, Atelier Nouvelle Tendance, has enabled art historians to identify the painting as a scene from 17th century Jerusalem.
Old Master expert, Stéphane Pinta, found a copy of the work in ‘Odyssey of an Ambassador: The Travels of the Marquis de Nointel 1670-1680’ (1900). The book by Albert Vandal charts the travels of French marquis Charles-Marie-François Olier, King Louis XIV’s ambassador to the Ottoman Court. The painting was created by Arnould de Vuez in 1674 during the reign of the Sun King.
It is unclear why the work was hidden within the walls of the property which was once home to a French noble family and became an office for an insurance brokerage. One theory is that it was buried out of sight of the Nazis who plundered some 650,000 artworks during the Second World War around 110,000 of which belonged to Jewish families.
Chief Executive of Oscar de la Renta, Alex Bolen has secured permission from the owners of the building on the Rue de Marignan to keep the painting during his tenancy as long as he foots the restoration bill. Janson and his team have been working on the painting for a month and a half and it will take around two more months to complete the restoration.
At first Bolen wanted the canvas removed to save time so he could open his new boutique for Paris Fashion week. His wife convinced him we would suffer 100 years of bad luck if he did and so Bolen chose to pay for the restoration and open his store in Spring with the added sophistication of a bonafide masterpiece as the centrepiece of the interior design.