A medieval painting by the Italian master Cimabue – known otherwise as Cenni di Pepo – has just sold for €24.2 million ($26.8 million), with fees, at the French auction house Actéon.
The painting is widely referred to as Christ Mocked (1280) and has just become the most expensive medieval painting ever sold. According to a statement by the Senlis-based auction house, it is also the eighth highest sale for a medieval or Old Master painting.
The 13th century painter’s work, which is unsigned, is not only the first-ever Cimabue to be sold at auction, but also one of his only 10 fully accepted works on panel known to have survived – according to artnet News.
The estimated value of €4 million to €6 million was surpassed by an edge-of-the-seat bidding war between eight bidders. London-based dealer Fabrizio Moretti – acting on behalf of different collectors – is said to have been the winning bidder in the room. He told the New York Times: “It’s one of the most important Old Master discoveries in the past 15 years.”
Parisian expert, Eric Turquin, stated that painting gathered interest from some of the most prominent museums and dealers worldwide.
Christ Mocked was recently found in an old woman’s house, in the northern French town of Compiègne. The long-lost work is believed to be part of a polyptych – a large work of art divided into several smaller panels – depicting the passion and crucifixion of Christ.
Two other scenes from the same Cimabue work can be seen at London’s National Gallery — The Virgin and Child with Two Angels, and the Frick Collection — The Flagellation of Christ, in New York. When, if ever, shall we see these three fragile works together as originally intended?