Construction of an Oscar de la Renta boutique in Paris revealed a monumental 17th-century painting.

Michelle Santiago Cortés
Jan 23, 2019 5:41PM, via New York Times

A 17th-century painting was discovered behind a wall in a soon-to-be Oscar de la Renta boutique in Paris. The 10-by-20-foot oil painting depicts a marquis and his courtiers riding horseback into the city of Jerusalem.

Oscar de la Renta’s chief executive, Alex Bolen, told the New York Times that he got a call last summer from his architect in Paris. “We made a discovery,” she told him. He hopped on a flight from New York to see the discovery himself.

It was later learned that the painting is a 1674 work by one Arnould de Vuez, a Flemish painter and close collaborator of Charles Le Brun (a court painter to Louis XIV). The cinematic composition tells the story of the Marquis de Nointel, Louis XIV’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. It is believed that the painting was glued to the wall during World War II to keep it out of the reach of Nazi looters. Specialists have spent the last two months restoring it.

Apart from the wall-to-wall oil painting, construction workers also discovered a coffered ceiling with eight of the 29 inset squares featuring painted coats of arms. This new de la Renta boutique, located in a 19th century building where a Reed Krakoff store and an insurance broker used to be, is set to open this week in time for the Paris couture shows. Before it was gutted, the space was “pretty charmless,” as Bolen put it.

Michelle Santiago Cortés