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Painting That Was Almost Thrown Away Sells for $26.6M

Elderly Frenchwoman kept it in her kitchen
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2019 4:01 AM CDT
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Art expert Stephane Pinta points to a 13th century painting by Italian master Cimabue in Paris,.Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019.   (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
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(Newser) – An incredibly rare medieval painting hit the auction block Sunday—and it was apparently none the worse for the decades it spent hanging over the hot plate in the kitchen of an elderly Frenchwoman, who thought it was a religious icon from Greece or Russia. It was in fact one of just 11 known paintings by Italian master Cimabue, and it sold for a record-breaking $26.6 million, four times the estimate, the BBC reports. Acteon Auction House says the 10-inch-high "Christ Mocked" painting is the most expensive medieval painting ever sold at auction. It is the first painting by Cimabue, also known as Cenni de Pepo, ever to be auctioned off. It was one of eight scenes of Christ the revered pre-Renaissance painter created for a diptych in 1280.

The auction house says the painting was sold to an anonymous buyer from northern France. The painting would probably have ended up in the trash if it hadn't been spotted by an auctioneer the owner, who is in her 90s, had asked to evaluate her home's contents because she was moving and wanted to get rid of almost everything, the Guardian reports. The auctioneer advised the woman to bring the artwork to experts. "It didn't take long for us to see that it was an artwork by Italian painter Cimabue," Jerome Montcouquil at art specialists Cabinet Turquin tells CNN. "He's a father of painting so we know his work very well." (This New Mexico couple kept a stolen $100 million painting in their bedroom for decades.)

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