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Rare Italian masterpiece found in French kitchen sold for €24 million

A rare masterpiece by Italian early Renaissance master Cimabue that was discovered in a French kitchen was sold on Sunday for 24 million euros – some five times the initial estimate.

Rare Italian masterpiece found in French kitchen sold for €24 million
"Christ Mocked', the attributed to Cimabue, was found in a French kitchen. Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

The Acteon auction house did not identify the winning bidder for the painting, “Christ Mocked”, at the sale in Senlis, outside Paris.

READ ALSO: Old French lady discovers Italian Renaissance masterpiece in her kitchen

The selling price, which included costs, smashed the initial estimate of between four million and six million euros.

Bidding began at three million euros, with only three of the eight bidders present at the auction.

It is the first time in decades that a painting by Cimabue, a pioneering primitive painter who lived from 1272-1302 and is also known as Cenni di Pepo, has gone under the hammer.

Acteon said the figure was the highest ever reached for a mediaeval painting and the eighth-highest ever reached for a mediaeval or old master painting.

The highest figure ever reached for a painting was the $450 million paid for the Salvator Mundi attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and sold at auction in 2017.

Experts in September announced the sensational discovery of the painting by Cimabue which was owned by a woman in the northern French town of Compiegne, who had it hanging between her kitchen and her sitting room

She believed it was merely an old religious icon when she took it to the auctioneers to be valued.

Rare example of a Cimabue

The tiny unsigned work, measuring just 26 by 20 centimetres (10 by eight inches), was found to be in excellent condition, though covered in grime from having been displayed right above a cooking hotplate.

Art experts at Turquin in Paris used infrared reflectology to confirm that the piece is part of a larger diptych from 1280, when Cimabue painted eight scenes of the passion and crucifixion of Christ. Each of the two panels in the diptych had four scenes.

Only two other elements of the diptych are known to exist: “The Flagellation of Christ” displayed at the Frick in New York, and “The Virgin and Child with Two Angels” at the National Gallery in London.

Cimabue is renowned for his mosaics, frescoes and altarpieces. Historians say only about a dozen works on wood – all unsigned are thought to have been made by the Italian artist.

His more natural and nuanced depictions marked a turning point for Italian painters still influenced by highly stylised Byzantine art.

Art historians consider him a trailblazer for the creative Renaissance that would flourish under greats like Giotto, one of Cimabue's pupils.

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CULTURE

How to make the most of France’s ‘night of museums’ this weekend

More than 3,000 French museums will stay open long past their bedtimes on Saturday May 14th for the 18th Long Night of Museums.

How to make the most of France's 'night of museums' this weekend

The annual event takes place on the third Saturday in May each year in towns and cities across the whole of Europe. There are temporary exhibitions, themed guided visits, musical entertainment, lectures, concerts, food tasting, historical reconstructions and re-enactments, and film projections. Best news of all, almost everything is free. 

Here’s The Local’s guide to getting the most out of the night:

Plan, plan, then throwaway the plan

Consult the online programme and map out your route. A little preparation will make the night much easier – 3,000 museums will be open long into the night in France, and you don’t want to waste hours standing on a bridge arguing about where to go next. 

The site has suggestions for major cities, including Lyon, Dijon, Bourges, Strasbourg, Lille, Rouen, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Marseilles. And four museums that have been closed to the public for years – Musée de Cluny in Paris, the Musée de Valenciennes, the Forum antique de Bavay in Nord and the Musée départemental Albert-Khan in Boulogne-Billancourt – are reopening on the night.

So, decide where you’re going beforehand – then feel free to dump your carefully plotted plan in a bin when you overhear someone else talking about this extraordinary thing they have discovered and go with the flow.

Be patient

When you are consulting the official website, try not to scream. You have to navigate a map rather than a traditional programme format – though, at least, this year it’s broken down in to French regions, which is marginally less frustrating.

It is actually much easier if you know the specific museums you are interested in visiting, as they have individual programmes of events. But half the fun of a night like this is visiting somewhere you’ve never been before.

Wear comfortable shoes and travel light

Wear shoes for the long haul rather than the first impression. There will be distances to cover and you might even find yourself dancing in the middle of a museum. 

And blisters are never a good partner with great art. Leave your skateboard and shopping trolley at home, they will just prove a nuisance when you are going through security checks.

Come early – or late – to avoid endless queues

Arriving at the Louvre at 8pm is always going to mean a giant queue. And nothing ruins a night quicker than spending most of it standing in an unmoving line. Try to escape peak times at the major museums – but check they’re not doing something interesting that you don’t want to miss – hip hop dance classes in the Department of Oriental Antiquities, in the Louvre’s Richelieu wing, for example…

Go somewhere you’ve never been to before

Do a lucky dip. Pick somewhere you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. What about the Musée de Valenciennes, which reopens after years of being closed to the public, for example. Its giving visitors the chance to see its fine art under ultraviolet light – which will reveal things you wouldn’t normally see.

Or you could delve deep into the Aude Departmental Archives, in Carcassonne, and discover the amazing life stories of some of the region’s historical figures

Make it social

Gather the troops, this is a night for multi-generations of family and friends. Art, history and culture, is very much a shared experience and you can usually find something that everyone loves – or hates.

Plan a pitstop

You will always need refreshing and wouldn’t a night of culture be wonderfully enhanced by a delicious picnic on the banks of the Seine, if you’re in Paris. 

Your mind will need a little pause from all the intellectual overload. Find a spot, listen to the music (there’s always music from somewhere) and watch the Bateaux Mouches go by as you eat a baguette with some good local cheese and some saucisson.

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