Masterpiece by 13th century Italian painter Cimabue found in French woman’s kitchen

Masterpiece by 13th century Italian painter Cimabue found in French woman’s kitchen
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A masterpiece by 13th century Italian painter Cimabue found in French woman’s kitchen

On rare occasions, folks do discover that something they’ve had for ages, sitting in plain sight and right under their noses, so to speak, turn out to have great value.

That lucky individual could forget the reorganizing and just buy an entirely new home. Having such a treasure merely hanging on the wall and not knowing its value — that’s not just luck; that’s like having heaven itself in your corner!

An elderly woman in Compiegne, France, had exactly that kind of terrific good fortune recently when she was reorganizing her kitchen.

During the work, she found what she thought was perhaps an old religious artifact of some kind, and fortunately, she took it to experts for their appraisal.

The artwork in her kitchen, the experts discovered, was a small Medieval painting by a 13th-century Italian painter, who went by the name Cenni di Pepo, but also Cimabue.

The painting, done on wood, is part of a polyptych, a series of several paintings done of a number of panels. This one measures approximately 11 inches by eight inches and has an appraised value of well over $6 million (USD).

The painting found – “Christ Mocked” by Cimabue.
The painting found – “Christ Mocked” by Cimabue.

The painting, “Christ Mocked,” was examined by art appraiser Eric Turquin. He told The Art Newspaper that, when he compared “Christ Mocked” to other works in the series by Cimabue, he knew almost immediately that it was a genuine masterpiece.

Although they used infrared to authenticate the painting’s provenance, something else confirmed the date it was painted, something that had nothing to do with science and everything to do with nature.

The telltale signs of a little critter were present, and that gave Turquin the final reassurance he needed.

Close up of the painting
Close up of the painting

Wood eating bugs leave distinct traces, and they were there on “Christ Mocked,” as they are on other panels in the polyptych.

“You can follow the tunnels made by the worms,” he told The Art Newspaper. “It’s the same poplar panel,” he explained, as other works, the artist did on that particular wood.

Cimabue lived from 1240 until 1302, and several of his works hang in the Louvre, France’s famous and prestigious museum in Paris.

This particular painting will be put up for auction on October 27th. It marks the very first time the painter’s works have ever been put up for auction, and some sources say it could fetch as much as $8 million (USD). The auction will take place at the Acteon Auction House in Senlis, France.

Cimabue – Maestà di Santa Trinita
Cimabue – Maestà di Santa Trinita.

Cimabue’s work hangs in other esteemed galleries too; his paintings are on exhibit at the National Gallery in London, and the Frick Gallery in New York City.

He was considered a vital contributor to pre-Renaissance art, and The Art Newspaper called him “the father of Western painting” in its piece about the discovery.

Thank goodness the owner, who is soon to be a multimillionaire, did not decide to simply toss out the treasure while revamping her kitchen. One cannot help but wonder: will she remain in her modest digs after the end of October, or move into a place that is a little more upscale?


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Jessica Saraceni has been a part of Histecho Since 2018, drawn to the site for its quirky character and through Articles about the Mysteries of earth and human behavior. previously, she was an assistant editor and Research fellow at Archaeology magazine, where she gained an appreciation for the field work. A master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental science from the Center for Archaeological Research, the University of Texas at San Antonio. She enjoys all forms of exercise; reading works by her favorite author, Haruki Murakami; and playing with her sons.