What an elderly woman thought was a religious work of art hanging inside her kitchen, turned out to be a Renaissance masterpiece worth millions.
Art experts said on Monday that the painting, which depicts a crowd mocking Christ and was found during a house clearance in June in the French town of Compiegne, was actually a piece called Christ Mocked, by the great 13th-century Florentine painter Cimabue.
Old Masters specialists Turquin said the painting is estimated to be worth between four million and six million euros ($4.3m-$6.6m).
Tests using infrared light found that there was “no disputing that the painting was done by the same hand” as other works known to be by Cimabue, Eric Turquin was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
The 25cm (10-inch) panel will be moved to the Acteon auction house in Senlis, north of Paris, on October 27.
Cimabue, known as Cenni di Penni, is widely regarded as one of the greatest Italian painters.
According to historian Giorgio Vasari, Cimabue was the teacher of Giotto, the 14th century’s most significant Italian painter.
The painting found in the woman’s house is thought to be part of a large diptych dating from 1230 when Cimabue painted eight scenes depicting Christ’s passion and crucifixion.
Of the eight scenes, two others are known to the public. One of them, The Virgin and Child with Two Angels, currently hangs in the National Gallery in London while the other, The Flagellation of Christ, is in New York as part of the Frick Collection.
It is not the first time the art world has been surprised by an unexpected discovery of Cimabue’s work.
The painting that is now in London’s National Gallery was given to the nation in 2000 after being found during the clearout of a British aristocrat’s ancestral home in Suffolk.
Early Renaissance painters were hugely influenced by Byzantine art, which is still produced in a similar style today on a background of gold paint.