A previously unrecorded painting by Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), official painter to the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV, has been discovered hanging in the Coco Chanel Suite at the Hôtel Ritz in Paris by the London-based fine art consultant Joseph Friedman. Formerly Curator of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s residence in Paris, Friedman was advising the hotel on its current €200 million renovation project when he came across the work. The painting, thought to depict The Sacrifice of Polyxena, will be auctioned by Christie’s in Paris on 15 April 2013 and has a pre-sale estimate of €300,000-500,000.
Friedman said: “I literally took a step backwards when I saw the painting. It was clearly the work of a major 17th-century French master.” With his assistant, Wanda Tymowska, he set about examining the painting and Tymowska discovered an inscription ‘C.L.B.F.’, which they realised could stand for ‘Charles Le Brun Fecit’, with a date 1647, potentially making this one of the very earliest masterpieces by the artist. A search of the literature on Le Brun revealed no mention of this painting, but this only increased Friedman’s excitement since it meant that he painting could not be a copy or re-working of some well-known composition but in all probability an original, which despite being in the hotel for decades, had somehow gone unnoticed.