Lost Florentine Masterpiece Worth $6.59 Million Found In Elderly Woman’s Kitchen

'It didn't take long for us to see that it was an artwork by Italian painter Cimabue,' said an art specialist.

a visitor checks out paintings at an art gallery
RyanMcGuire / Pixabay

'It didn't take long for us to see that it was an artwork by Italian painter Cimabue,' said an art specialist.

A lost masterpiece by 13th-century Florentine painter Cimabue has been found in the kitchen of an elderly French woman who had no idea of its value, CNN reports. The painting is expected to fetch €6 million (approximately $6.59 million) at auction.

Cimabue is the pseudonym of artist Cenni di Pepo, who was born in Florence, in what is now Italy, around the year 1240. He is believed to have tutored Giotto, who is considered one of the masters of pre-Renaissance art. Cimabue himself is only known to have produced a handful of paintings, of which only 11 are known to exist.

One such painting is called Christ Mocked, a scene depicting the people of Jerusalem mocking Jesus of Nazareth. It was one of eight scenes depicting the passion of Jesus of Nazareth; two other scenes from the diptych, as the multi-part painting is called, are in art galleries in London and New York.

Christ Mocked had been lost to the mists of history, until it somehow wound up in the hands of an unidentified French woman. How she came to be in possession of the painting, where she found it, how much she paid for it, and other specifics remain unclear. What is known is that she thought it was a Greek religious icon, and she hung it in her kitchen, above a hot plate, for decades.

paintings hang on the wall of an art gallery
  The Local People Photo Archive / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Art specialist Jerome Montcouquil and his team at Cabinet Turquin were called in to authenticate the painting after it was found earlier this summer. Despite having collected a layer of dust over the decades, the painting was deemed to be in excellent condition. The gold background and pieces of the original frame led the team to conclude that the 10.16 x 7.9-inch work of art was indeed a priceless Cimabue.

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“It didn’t take long for us to see that it was an artwork by Italian painter Cimabue. He’s a father of painting so we know his work very well. We also used infrared light to be sure the painting was done by the same hand. You can even see the corrections he made,” Montcouquil said.

Describing the work as “priceless,” however, isn’t entirely accurate. The work does, indeed, have a price. Montcouquil says that the piece is expected to command several million when it goes up for auction on October 27 at the Acteon auction house in Senlis, north of Paris. It will be the first Cimabue ever put up for auction.