Newly Discovered Le Brun Masterpiece Heads to Auction

“The Sacrifice of Polyxena” by famed French artist Charles Le Brun, was only recently discovered hanging in the Coco Channel Suite of Paris’ Hotel Ritz.

PARIS — A previously unknown painting by celebrated 17th-century French artist Charles Le Brun recently discovered hanging in a grand suite of a Paris hotel will be auctioned by Christie’s in April.

The work, “The Sacrifice of Polyxena,” was discovered in Paris’ Hôtel Ritz in the Coco Channel Suite. The nature of the piece was recognized only recently by the Ritz’s art advisor, Joseph Friedman, and fellow consultant Wanda Tymowska. Leading French museums have since unanimously supported its attribution.

The Ritz archives have not revealed how the painting came to the hotel or when it was first installed, however some speculate the painting was already in the townhouse when César Ritz acquired it in 1898.

Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) is known as Louis XVI’s favored artist and is considered to be one of the most important painters in the history of French art. He was named Chancellor for Life of the Académie Royale and First Painter to the King and contributed to the creation of the royal palace of Versailles.

The painting, which is monogrammed by Le Brun and dated 1647, represents a turning point in Le Brun’s career. He had recently returned to Paris from a three-year sojourn in Rome, where he studied the paintings of Raphael and came under the influence of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), whose severe classicism marked a new chapter in European painting.

The “Sacrifice of Polyxena” displays the profound impact of Poussin’s art on Le Brun’s style, as it shows the artist’s fidelity in reproducing the antiquities of Imperial Rome. Details within the piece show bronze vase, tripod and marble sarcophagus that ornament the scene, and the incense casket, which is taken from a drawing made by Le Brun in Rome after an antique prototype.

The painting, valued at $400,000 to $675,000 (€300,000 to €500,000) will come to auction on April 15 at Christie’s Old Masters and 19th Century Art Auction in Paris.

For more information, visit Christie’s website.


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