A rare masterpiece by Italian early Renaissance master Cimabue that was discovered in a French kitchen sold for 24 million euros (US$26.6 million) on Sunday, about five times the initial estimate.
The Acteon auction house did not identify the winning bidder for the painting, Christ Mocked, at the sale in Senlis, outside Paris.
The selling price, which included costs, smashed the initial estimate of between 4 million and 6 million euros. Bidding began at 3 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 medieval painting and the eighth-highest ever reached for a medieval or old master painting.
The highest figure ever reached for a painting was the US$450 million paid for the Salvator Mundi attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and sold at auction in 2017.
Experts last month announced the sensational discovery of the painting by Cimabue, which was owned by a woman in the northern French town of Compiegne. She 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.
The tiny unsigned work, measuring just 26cm by 20cm, was found to be in excellent condition, although 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.
Separately, a rare 1950s Patek Philippe timepiece is coming up for sale in a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong that risks taking place against the backdrop of the political demonstrations that have hit sales of new watches.
The 18-carat pink gold Patek Philippe has a rare translucent blue enamel dial and is known by the name of the 177-year-old Milan-based shop where it was sold, Gobbi.
The estimate is US$7 million to US$14 million, which Christie’s said is the highest for any wristwatch offered in an auction.
The sale is scheduled for Nov. 27, and it continues a trend in which auctioneers increasingly offer prestigious lots in Asia, to tap demand by collectors in China, the world’s largest market for Swiss watches.
Christie’s yesterday showed the timepiece along with other lots to journalists in Hong Kong to drum up interest.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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