A few years ago, the art world was abuzz with news that a painting by the 13th-century master Cimabue was discovered and was going up for auction.
At the time, it was found in the house of a 90-year-old French woman hanging above her hot plate. Christ Mocked also known as The Derison of Christ, was identified only because one of the elder’s children decided to bring an appraiser into the house whilst they were preparing to help her move.
The elder had originally planned to find a new home for the painting in the nearest wastebasket, assuming the 10 x 8 painting to be a simple Greek icon.
Going up at auction in 2019, it sold for over $25 million, four times its predicted amount. Smithsonian reports that Fabrizio Moretti, the buyer who was working on behalf of two other collectors, believed it to be of inestimable value.
“It’s one of the most important old master discoveries in the last 15 years,” he told the New York Times after the sale. “Cimabue is the beginning of everything. He started modern art. When I held the picture in my hands, I almost cried.”
Cimabue is believed to be the pseudonym of Fiorentino painter Cenni di Pepo, who was born in 1240 and may have been the teacher of the celebrated Italian master, Giotto.
“The Derision of Christ of Cimabue is a crucial milestone in art history, marking the fascinating transition from [iconograpy] to painting,” the French Ministry of Culture stated after it, in collaboration with the Louvre, managed to buy the painting for its collection.
“Cimabue lays the foundations for a new way of painting and addresses questions that will be central to the Renaissance: the illusionist representation of space, the body, light, and human feelings.”
The painting is part of a diptych that included 8 different altar paintings; only two of which are known today.
Merely fifteen works of Cimabue are known, and these are mainly frescoes. Christ Mocked will join the monumental Maestà, another masterpiece of Cimabue whose restoration is currently ongoing for an exhibition event in spring 2025 at the Louvre.
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