An elderly French woman had the painting hanging above a hot plate in her kitchen, thinking it was just an old piece of art. When she finally got curious enough to get it appraised, she found out it was indeed old—and extremely valuable. That's because, per an old-masters expert, the 10-inch-high Jesus-themed piece, painted on a poplar wood panel with a gold background, is "Christ Mocked," a Renaissance-era painting by the Florentine painter Cimabue, aka Cenni di Pepo, AFP and the BBC report. The artwork is believed to be part of a multipaneled polyptych dating back to 1280, in which Cimabue depicted the passion and crucifixion of Christ in eight scenes.
Two other scenes from the work are known to still exist: One is housed at London's National Gallery, while the other is at the Frick Collection in New York. This installation is thought to be worth between $4.4M and $6.6M, expert Eric Turquin says. Infrared light was used to compare the painting to other Cimabue works. "The painting was done by the same hand," Turquin tells French newspaper Le Figaro. But infrared analysis wasn't the only thing that convinced Turquin. "You can follow the tunnels made by the worms," he tells the Art Newspaper, explaining that the tunnels burrowed by wood-chomping larvae in "Christ Mocked" line up with those found in the other two known panels. The Acteon auction house will put the painting on the block on Oct. 27. (Read more discoveries stories.)