Renaissance Masterpiece Found in French Woman's Kitchen Sells for $26.6M

Courtesy PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images

It's the first time a Cimabue has ever gone under the hammer. 

It may be time to do a little organizing at home. A long-lost, incredibly rare medieval painting found in the home of an elderly French woman sold for a record $26.6M (€24M) this week. 

The old painting had been hung above a hotplate in a kitchen in the French town of Compiegne. Titled Christ Mocked, experts have attributed the painting to 13th-century Italian artist Cenni di Pepo, known as Cimabue, a legendary figure widely seen as a Renaissance forefather. Experts have identified only 10 or so other Cimabue paintings, and his work remains exceedingly rare—making this improbable rediscovery even more remarkable.

Surprisingly, it had only been expected to sell for $6.6M at auction. 

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Dominique Le Coent of Acteon Auction House, who sold the work to an anonymous buyer near Chantilly, north of Paris, told The Associated Press that experts were off the mark of the estimated auction price because it was the first time a Cimabue had ever gone under the hammer. "There's never been a Cimabue painting on sale so there was no reference previously on how much it could make," he explained. 

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The 8-by-10-inch painting is in very good condition according to Philomène Wolf, the auctioneer who discovered the painting. He told Le Parisien, “If you think about it, this thing has been around for several hundred years; it’s probably been through a lot. It’s been through the French Revolution. It’s been through several wars. Works of art are more resistant than people think.”

“Still,” he added, “I wouldn’t recommend anyone putting something that old over a hot plate.”

Its owner, the 90-year-old French woman who hasn’t been publicly identified, asked an auctioneer to look through her house before she moved out this summer, the Associated Press reported. The auctioneer spotted it and suggested she take it to art experts at the Turquin gallery in Paris, who concluded with “certitude” it was a Cimabue.