Cimabue Masterpiece Found in French Kitchen Sells for Record €24m

Last month, a long-lost masterpiece by Italian artist Cimabue was rediscovered in the kitchen of an elderly French woman. The painting was sold at auction yesterday for €24.2m, more than four times its presale estimate of €4m-6m, setting a new world record for a medieval painting sold at auction.

Entitled Christ Mocked, the unsigned painting on a wooden panel measures only 20 x 26 cm. It had been hung above a hotplate in a kitchen of a French woman in Compiègne for years until it was spotted by an auctioneer who came to value furniture. Thought to be an old religious icon with little value by the woman, the painting was reattributed to Italian early Renaissance artist Cimabue.

Cimabue, also known as Cenni di Pepo, was believed to be born before 1250 in Florence. Active in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, Cimabue is generally regarded as one of the first great Italian painters to break from the Italo-Byzantine style. He was also the teacher of Giotto, the first great artist of the Italian Proto-Renaissance. There are only 11 works extant pieces by Cimabue and the majority of these examples consists of frescoes and panel paintings.

According to the auction house, the present panel is the only Cimabue that has ever come on the market and was expected to fetch €4m-€6m. The sale attracted about 800 people in the auction hall. The painting was hammered down at €19.5m and sold for €24.2m (US$26.8m) after premium, making it the most expensive medieval painting ever sold. It was acquired by an anonymous buyer from northern France, said the auction house.

The Virgin and Child with Two Angels. National Gallery in London

The Flagellation of Christ. The Frick Collection

The work is believed to be part of a polyptych created by Cimabue in 1280. It consists of eight scenes of the passion and crucifixion of Christ. Each of the two panels in the diptych had four scenes. Two scenes from the same diptych, known as The Virgin and Child with Two Angels and The Flagellation of Christ, are currently in the collection of the National Gallery in London and The Frick Collection in New York.

Auction details
Auction house: Actéon Auction, Paris
Auction date: 27 October 2019