What hangs in your kitchen? To save space, you can simply hang stylised fruit paintings or pots and pans on the wall. An elderly woman from Compiègne, France, has what she thinks is a Greek religious icon hanging in her kitchen. The small image, measuring 8 inches by 10 inches, would appear to the woman's eyes as a simple Bible. It's normal, but otherwise nothing special. But in 2019, the work was discovered to be a lost masterpiece by the elusive medieval painter Florentin Cimabue. Now, after a legal battle and a massive fundraising campaign, the $26 million painting will become part of the Louvre's collection.
The painting was completed in 1280 under the name Christ Mocked. Most European paintings of the period were religious and Cimabue was a master in this genre. The panel is part of a larger project comprising eight biblical paintings depicting the passion and crucifixion of Christ. The Virgin and Child with two angels panels in London and The Flagellation of Christ in New York. The location of the remaining panels is unknown. Only 15 of his works remain today, but he is well known for having taught Giotto.
The paintings were sold after being found in an old woman's kitchen. It sold for $26.8 million in October 2019. However, France faced a backlash by defining these works as “national treasures” and banning their export. By ceasing operations for 30 months, the Louvre was able to raise significant funds to purchase paintings as part of a national effort to preserve its treasures. “Cimabue laid the foundations for a new way of painting and addressed issues that would become important for the Renaissance: the fantastic representation of space, bodies, light and the human spirit,” said the French Ministry of Culture in a press release.
At the Louvre, the paintings will now be mostly within the reach of the best curators of world art. It will also be included in the collection along with quotes from the time of Cimabue, his student Giotto and the Italian Renaissance artists who followed him and made his legacy magnificent. According to the Ministry of Culture, “This new image joins another of Cimabue’s masterpieces, the monumental Maestà, currently being restored at the Louvre. “The two images together will constitute the theme of the event in spring 2025.”