Grimy painting found in French kitchen fetches $26.6 million to set record for medieval art

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A unique work by Italian early Renaissance master, Cimabue, was sold at a French auction for 24 million euros ($26.6 million). It used to hang in a kitchen for years, with the owner unaware of the treasure in her possession.

Acteon auction house expected the ‘Christ Mocked’ painting to go for between 4 and 6 million euros, but the final price smashed those estimates by more than four times.The name of the buyer, who paid the highest ever sum for a medieval painting, hasn’t been disclosed.

Cimabue, who lived in Florence in 1272 – 1302, is believed to have played a key role in Italian painters giving up on Byzantine style and paving the way for Renaissance style through his more detailed and realistic depictions. The high price fetched by the painting may also be explained by the fact that work by the artist, also known as Cenni di Pepo, went on sale for the first time in decades on Sunday.

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The discovery of the early Renaissance masterpiece was announced last month and became a sensation in the art world. It was owned by a woman from the town of Compiegne in northern France, who thought of it as just some old religious icon. The painting was hanging between her kitchen and her sitting room, collecting dust and grime for years. When she took the piece to the auctioneers they were stunned to find out that it was actually part of a diptych with scenes of the passion and crucifixion of Christ, which was painted by Cimabue. Its authenticity was confirmed through infrared reflectology. And when the grime was removed it turned out that the painting, which was made on wood and measured just 26 by 20cm, was in excellent condition.

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