As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the painting, Christ Mocked, had been considered lost to the mists of history. The piece was part of a larger collection depicting the final days of Jesus of Nazareth and was painted around 1240 by Florentine artist Cenni di Pepo, who painted under the pseudonym Cimabue.
Cimabue is believed to have only painted a handful of paintings, and only 11 are believed to exist. Two pieces of the same sequence of paintings from which Christ Mocked comes are in museums.
Believed lost for centuries, the painting turned up in the home of an elderly French woman, who had kept it above a hot plate in her kitchen for decades. The unidentified woman believed it to be a Greek religious icon and had no idea that it was a priceless work of pre-Renaissance art. 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.
When it was brought to the attention of art specialists, the value and significance of the painting was immediately apparent, says Jerome Montcouquil.
"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," he said.On Sunday, the piece was auctioned off, and it shattered the price it was expected to fetch, by threefold. At the time of its discovery, it was expected to grab between $6-7 million at auction. However, when the gavel finally banged on Sunday, it sold for €24 million (about $26.6 million).
Dominique Le Coent of Acteon Auction House said that the sale exceeded all expectations.
"It's a painting that was unique, splendid and monumental. Cimabue was the father of the Renaissance. But this sale goes beyond all our dreams," Le Coent said.
As for why the final price was higher than the expected price multiple times over, Le Coent notes that this is the first time in history that a Cimabue had gone up for auction, so there was no precedent on which to base an estimate.
The buyer of the painting has not been identified. The elderly woman who had kept it has not been named, either. She'll be receiving "the majority" of the sale price after the auction house takes its cut and taxes are accounted for.