Hidden masterpiece discovered in Paris

Workers in Paris discovered a huge 17th century painting stuck to a wall while renovating a boutique for fashion house Oscar de la Renta.

The masterpiece is an oil on canvas created in 1674 by Arnould de Vuez and depicts a procession entering Jerusalem with great pomp.

How the artwork got there remains a mystery.

Paris architect Nathalie Ryan is used to surprises, mostly unpleasant ones that complicate her job.

But the surprise she came upon while creating a boutique for fashion house Oscar de la Renta was nothing short of spectacular.

Behind a wall in what used to be an insurance office, workers discovered a 10- by 20-foot oil painting, its canvas glued onto the wall.

Art restorers were called in, and beneath layers of grime and ancient varnish emerged a 17th century masterpiece by Arnould de Vuez, a favorite in the court of King Louis XIV.

“The first time I saw this work, my emotion was as big as the painting. As a restorer, right away I wanted to do a test to see what was underneath,” said Benoit Janson.

What was underneath is believed to be one of a series of four paintings commission to depict the travels of Louis XIV’s ambassador to the Middle East, shown entering Jerusalem in 1674.

While the painting and the painter have been identified, the question is how did the painting end up behind a wall in a building constructed in the 19th century?

“Was it stolen? Was it found? Was it owned by the previous people that were here, and did they put it on the wall? Was it hidden during the war? There is a lot of theory we could do there and do a whole spy story about it,” Ryan said.

The discovery quite naturally led to de la Renta managers to rethink the design of their Paris boutique and how best to display their masterpiece.

“It will be integrated into the showroom,” Ryan said. “I think this is probably going to be like a special visit in order to see it. I feel really blessed being part of this whole experience.”

With the number of historic renovations that happen in Paris, there are plenty of tales of discovering valuables behind the walls, gold, jewelry and the like – most of them exaggerated or fake. In this case, the discovery turned out to be real.