Rare $26M pre-Renaissance painting found in woman’s house is acquired by the Louvre

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The Louvre Museum has acquired a $26 million painting from the 13th century four years after the work of art was discovered hanging on the wall of an elderly woman’s kitchen in France.

The Louvre announced the acquisition of the masterpiece titled “Christ Mocked,” which is attributed to the Italian painter Cimabue, earlier this month.

Laurence des Cars, president and director of the museum, called it a “great joy” for the museum to be able to present the painting, which he called “a crucial milestone in the history of art, marking the fascinating transition from icon to painting.”

In June 2019, an auctioneer discovered the painting hanging on a wall while inspecting the woman’s house in Compiegne, which is in northern France, and recommended that she bring it to experts to be evaluated. 

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13th century painting by Italian master Cimabue

Art expert Stephane Pinta points to a 13th century painting by Italian master Cimabue in Paris, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

Experts determined the painting was done by the pre-Renaissance painter Cimabue, who was said to have taught Italian master Giotto, broke from the Byzantine style, popular in the Middle Ages, and started including elements of movement and perspective that came to characterize Western painting. 

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An auctioneer spotted the painting while inspecting the womans house in Compiegne in northern France and suggested she bring it to experts for an evaluation. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

The painting hadn’t attracted much attention from the woman, who is in her 90s, or her family, who thought it was an old icon from Russia, according to reports at the time. 

The Louvre Museum in Paris, France

The Louvre Museum in Paris, France, acquired the lost work of art and will put it on display in Spring 2025. (Kristy Sparow/Getty Images For David Yurman)

The painting had hung on the kitchen wall of the woman’s home for so long that she reportedly told the auction house she could not remember how she got it.

The work, measuring about 10 inches by 8 inches, sold for $26.6 million (24 million euros) to an anonymous buyer near Chantilly, north of Paris, in October 2019.

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The museum said the painting, along with the Victor Hugo drawing “Marine Terrace,” will go on display together as part of an exhibition in Spring 2025.

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