Art Market

A Cimabue painting discovered in a French kitchen sold for nearly $27 million at auction.

Christy Kuesel
Oct 28, 2019 3:49PM, via New York Times

Cimabue, The Mocking of Christ or Christ Mocked. Sold for €24.1 million ($26.8 million). Image © Actéon.

Last month, an elderly French woman had the thrill of a lifetime when she discovered a painting hanging in her kitchen was worth up to $6.6 million. Now, that painting—a 13th century Cimabue titled The Mocking of Christ—has sold for over four times its high estimate. The painting fetched €24.1 million ($26.8 million) at an Actéon auction in France on Sunday, setting a record for the most expensive pre-1500 Old Master painting sold at auction.

That remarkable result was good enough to make it the eighth highest-selling Old Master work ever sold at auction—the highest, of course, being the $450 million Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500). Eight bidders competed for the work, and the New York Times reported that London dealer Fabrizio Moretti won out in the end. Moretti said he purchased the work on behalf of two collectors.

Eric Turquin, a Paris-based art expert who authenticated the painting, said in a statement:

We received interest from all the most prominent museums worldwide. Contemporary art collectors whom we did not know also showed a keen interest, which for us as experts in Old Masters, was a completely new phenomenon.

Although Cimabue is known as one of the greatest pre-Renaissance artists, only around 10 of his works are recognized today, and all of those works save The Mocking of Christ are in public collections, including London’s National Gallery and the Frick Collection. The Mocking of Christ marks the first time a Cimabue has been auctioned off in modern history.

Christy Kuesel