The chance discovery of a painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, located in the town of Lons-le-Saunier, in the French province of Jura, was made during an inventory conducted by Emmanuel Buselin, curator and advisor of historical monuments of the region, the work was found in the attic of the chapel of the former hospital Hôtel-Dieu, Le Monde reports.
An intrigued Buselin saw a large canvas rolled up and covered in dust – and sat down to unroll it. As the curator and advisor unrolled the work, a large Ingres masterpiece – measuring 4.30 meters wide by 3.40 meters high – depicting a Madonna with child and kneeling king, slowly appeared before his eyes.
The painting is thought to have been gifted to the town by the artist shortly after the completion of the work which dates to 1826. It hung in the local church of Saint-Désiré. But according to the municipal archives, in 1936 the church was refurbished and the painting stored in the former hospital, and was completely forgotten until its recent discovery.
The work by Ingres is considered to be priceless, and is thought to be the long-lost second version of Ingres’s Le Vœu de Louis XIII (The vow of Louis XIII), which King Charles X of France originally commissioned from the Neoclassical master in 1820. Buselin’s chance discovery of the work took place last autumn, but on order to protect the painting the chance find was kept a secret until this week, as the work could not be safely removed from the old hospital immediately.
The painting is expected to go on display once it has been repaired in the conservation area of the Museum of Fine Arts of Lons-le-Saunier.