90-Year-Old's Kitchen Artwork Revealed as $26.8M Masterpiece: Yours Could Be Next
A 90-year-old's kitchen in France was hiding a gem: 'Christ Mocked' by Cimabue, valued at $26.8 million, now takes pride of place in the Louvre as a celebrated national treasure
The tale of "Christ Mocked," a 13th-century painting by the Italian master Cimabue, is as captivating as any work of art. Discovered hanging above a hot plate in the kitchen of a 90-year-old French woman in Compiègne, this small but significant piece measuring 10 by 8 inches was initially unrecognised for its true value. The owner, preparing to move and clearing out her house, had no idea of the painting's origins, mistaking it for a Greek religious icon.
This serendipitous discovery unfolded in 2019 when the owner called an auctioneer to evaluate her possessions. The auctioneer, upon noticing the painting, suspected it might be a work of Italian primitivist nature, potentially worth between €300,000 and €400,000. Following further examination by art specialist Eric Turquin in Paris, the painting was authenticated as a genuine Cimabue. The analysis under infrared light revealed striking similarities with other works by the artist.
The historical significance of "Christ Mocked" lies in its creator, Cimabue, known as Cenni di Pepo, who is considered a pioneering figure in the transition from medieval to Renaissance art. Renowned for his influence on his student, Giotto, Cimabue's existing body of work is scarce, with only about 15 known pieces.
At an auction held at the Actéon Hôtel des Ventes in Senlis, the painting fetched a staggering €24.2 million ($26.8 million), setting a new world record for a pre-1500 artwork. The French government, recognising the cultural and historical importance of the painting, declared it a "national treasure," thus preventing its export for 30 months. This strategic move allowed the Louvre Museum the opportunity to raise funds and eventually acquire the painting.
Now part of the Louvre's collection, "Christ Mocked" is a testament to the enduring legacy of early Renaissance art. It joins another masterpiece by Cimabue, the "Maestà," in the museum. An upcoming exhibition in the spring will showcase these pieces, offering an insight into the foundational works that shaped the course of Western art history