A painting by Le Brun in the Ritz
A painting by Le Brun in the Ritz, one of Paris's most celebrated hotels
A picture by Le Brun, the iconic painter of Louis XIV's Versailles, will incontestably be the chief attraction in a Paris sale of paintings (Christie's). Apart from its creator, its provenance should also whet a few appetites, as the painting used to hang in one of Paris's most celebrated luxury hotels, the Ritz – and in Coco Chanel's suite to boot.
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The picture has probably never left the building in the Place Vendôme, formerly the Hôtel de Gramont, whose construction, begun in 1685 by Louvois, the Sun King's Surveyor General, was completed in 1705. Although visible to everyone, the picture became strangely disregarded, blending into the mansion's magnificent interior decoration. And yet the imposingly sized "Sacrifice de Polyxène" was signed by Le Brun and dated 1647. The painter, then aged 28, had recently spent four years in Rome, where Poussin took him under his wing. He then attracted the notice of Pope Urban VIII, and gained popularity with the most eminent figures at court. He returned to France with a glowing reputation already well established. From then on, Le Brun received a string of increasingly prestigious commissions that paved his way to glory. Participating in the founding of the Académie in 1648, he was soon chosen by the Superintendent of Finances, Fouquet, for the interior decoration of the Château de Vaux, before becoming First Painter to Louis XIV after Fouquet's disgrace. Not only one of the most celebrated painters of the French 17th century, the artist also influenced all the decorative arts through his position as director of the Gobelins, an institution that managed all the workshops attached to the Crown. Here, illustrating a story of Ovid's inspired by Homer – the sacrifice of King Priam of Troy's daughter on the tomb of her beloved, Achilles –, Le Brun gives us a powerful and subtle work, and a brilliant example of French history painting.
Will the latest Salon do better than the previous ones? It's hard to say, especially in an economic downturn. But the Paris fair has succeeded in setting the bar ever higher over the years. In 2012, the professionals unanimously acclaimed a positive result, marked by a higher attendance rate, good sales, and the return of American buyers, while the presence of representatives from the top museums confirmed the excellence of the works on offer.
TEFAF 2013 report: the world's most famous non-specialist art fair suffers from bad weather this year.
The first major retrospective of an auction room star since the 1980 show in New York, the Eileen Gray exhibition at the Centre Pompidou fulfils all its promises.
Greek billionaire George Economou has given a new dimension to his collection by creating an art centre, with a programme focused firmly on contemporary art
Clémence d’Ennery's passion inspired a collection of Far Eastern art that became a life's work, together with the mansion housing it.
The Howard Greenberg collection is exposed to Paris (photography and digital video capital).
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