A French woman in her 90s received the shock of her life when she discovered that the painting that used to hang between her kitchen and living room was worth about US$26 million. Though the painting was placed above a cooking spot, it was still in good condition.
Multi-million dollar painting
In June, the woman decided to sell her house. She contacted the auctioneers to check the contents of the home so as to know which items could be sold off. The auctioneers saw the painting and recommended that it be sent for expert evaluation. When art experts from Paris took a look at it, they evaluated it to be worth millions of dollars. The old lady was surprised since all this time the painting was just hanging around the house. The painting was identified as the work of 13th-century Florence painter Cimabue, who is considered to be one of the earliest Renaissance artists in Italy.
“Only 11 works painted on wood have been attributed to him, none of them signed. It [the painting] is thought to be part of a large diptych dating from 1280, when Cimabue painted eight scenes depicting Christ’s passion and crucifixion. Two scenes from the same diptych, known as The Virgin and Child with Two Angels and The Flagellation of Christ, already hang in the National Gallery in London and the Frick Collection in New York respectively,” according to The Guardian.
When art appraiser Eric Turquin first examined the painting, called Christ Mocked, he immediately recognized it as a masterpiece. Infrared was used to authenticate the painting’s provenance. It was put up for auction in October. This was the first time that a Cimabue painting has ever been put up for auction. It was estimated that the painting could fetch around US$6-8 million. However, when the painting was finally sold, the price stunned everyone — US$26 million.
“There was no reference previously on how much it could fetch… It’s a painting that is unique, splendid and monumental. Cimabue was the father of the Renaissance but this sale goes beyond all our dreams,” a person from the auction house said to The Telegraph. The woman who owned the painting has remained anonymous. For a long time, she had thought that the painting was some kind of religious icon from Russia. She has no idea how it came into the possession of her family.
Cimabue is believed to have been born before 1250, with his original name being Cenni di Pepi. Most of his works today exist as frescoes and panel art. His most extensive work can be seen at the Upper Church of San Francesco in Assisi. The huge crucifixion scene Cimabue painted at Assisi is considered a masterpiece. It currently looks like a photographic negative since the lead pigments have blackened with time.
“Cimabue took a Byzantine iconographic form, the dead Christ on the cross, and filled it with human drama. From the gentle rhythms among the faithful on the left to the pulsating hysteria of the angels fluttering about the cross, Cimabue related the story of the Crucifixion in direct, humanly comprehensible terms. The firmly rendered figures possess a plasticity and fullness not commonly found in late-13th-century painting and certainly explain why he was cited as the first painter to break away from the ‘Greek’ manner and develop a more natural style of painting,” according to Your Dictionary.
Cimabue is also famous for being the teacher of Giotto di Bondone, who is often regarded to be the first great Renaissance painter. Giotto was apparently discovered by Cimabue as a shepherd boy when he was drawing on a flat stone.