A lost 13th-century masterpiece has sold for almost 24.2 million Euros ($26.8 million), just months after it was found hanging in a French kitchen.
“Christ Mocked,” by the Florentine painter Cimabue, sold for more than four times the pre-sale estimate at an auction in Senlis, north of Paris, on Sunday.
An elderly French woman from the town of Compiegne had kept the rare artwork – which she thought was a Greek religious icon – in her kitchen. The unsuspecting owner did not know where the 10-inch by 8-inch painting had come from, according to Jerome Montcouquil of art specialists Cabinet Turquin, which was asked to carry out tests on the painting following its discovery in the summer
“It didn’t take long for us to see that it was an artwork by Italian painter Cimabue,” he told CNN prior to the sale. “He’s a father of painting so we know his work very well.”
Cimabue is the pseudonym of artist Cenni di Pepo, born in Florence around the year 1240. He is known to have been the discoverer and master of Giotto, widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of the pre-Renaissance era.
“There are only 11 of his paintings in the world – they are rare,” Montcouquil said.
Montcouquil said the work is part of a diptych made in 1280, when the artist painted eight scenes centered on the passion and crucifixion of Christ.
The style of painting, its gold background and traces of its old frame helped experts identify the artwork as part of the triptych, according to a press release published by auctioneers Acteon ahead of the sale.
The pictorial layer remains in “excellent condition” despite accumulating dust, continued the release.
The National Gallery in London is home to another scene from the work, “The Virgin and Child with Two Angels,” which the gallery acquired in 2000. It had been lost for centuries, before a British aristocrat found it in his ancestral home in Suffolk, according to AFP.
Another, “The Flagellation of Christ,” can be found at the Frick Collection in New York.
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“They are all made with the same technique on the same wood panel so you can follow the grain of the wood through the different scenes,” said Montcouquil. “We also used infrared light to be sure the painting was done by the same hand. You can even see the corrections he made.”
The painting had been hanging above a hot plate used for cooking food, according to AFP. Montcouquil said it was the first ever Cimabue painting to be auctioned.