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Painting Found in Kitchen Bought by The Louvre

A painting found in the kitchen of a homeowner who had planned to chuck it away will be kept in the Louvre after being declared a national treasure.

Cimabue, The Mocking of Christ (c. 1280)
Cimabue, The Mocking of Christ (c. 1280) | Credit: ACTEON Senlis.

An exceptionally rare gold-ground panel 13th century painting by the Medieval Italian master Cimabue made headlines in 2019 after it was discovered hanging above a stove in an elderly French woman’s kitchen. Offered by a Paris auction house that year, the treasure triggered a bidding war, racing past its estimate to sell for a whopping €24.2 million ($26.8 million).

The work was acquired by an overseas buyer, according to ArtNet. That prompted France’s culture ministry to declare The Mocking of Christ (c. 1280) to be a “national treasure” and imposed an export ban, stopping it from leaving the country for 30 months. This gave enough time for the Louvre in Paris to raise the €24 million necessary to match the winning bid and purchase Cimabue's masterpiece. Which it has just done.

The 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 extraordinary, says the Washington Post.

Remarkably, the prized 740-year-old panel - discovered hanging above a hotpot in the provincial kitchen of an elderly French woman - is a missing piece from an altarpiece depicting eight scenes from the Passion of Christ. It could be authenticated with certainty, because it had exactly the right dimensions, style, and colors, and the wood panel came from the same plank of poplar as the rest of the altarpiece. The panel even had matching wormholes. Its sale made the French woman a millionaire, but she died just two days later and her estate was split between three heirs.

The painting will be put on public display at a special exhibition-event planned for early 2025.


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