An elderly French woman got the shock of her life when a the painting she had hanging over her stove was revealed to be worth more than $26 million.
The woman was reportedly planning to get rid of the painting during the move, but a family member wanted to get all items on the property appraised first.
Luckily, they made that call, which led to the expert identifying that the extremely old painting was likely worth over $400,000.
Missing Cimabue painting “Christ Mocked” found in French kitchen
The family was stunned to learn that the woman’s kitchen artwork was actually a long lost 13th-century painting by Florentine artist Cimabue.
The pre-Renaissance artwork, titled “Christ Mocked,” was painted by Cimabue around 1280.
It is believed to be part of a large diptych that originally had eight panels, though five of them are still missing.
The painting initially sold for to London-based dealer Fabrizio Moretti for over $26 million at an auction in 2019.
“I bought it on behalf of two collectors,” Moretti told the New York Times’ after the purchase.
“It’s one of the most important old master discoveries in the last 15 years. Cimabue is the beginning of everything. He started modern art. When I held the picture in my hands, I almost cried.”
France blocks foreign acquisition of rare Cimabue painting
Moretti’s elation was short-lived, as the French government blocked the sale in order to keep the rare find in country.
The nation’s premiere art museum, the Louvre, had planned to buy the piece for around $6,500,000, but was outbid by Moretti.
Immediately following the auction, France’s culture ministry classified the piece as a “national treasure” and placed a temporary export ban, giving the Louvre 30 months to raise funds for the acquisition.
“These acquisitions are the result of an exceptional mobilization of the Louvre museum, which allows to preserve in France works coveted by the greatest museums of the world and to make them accessible to all,” they justified in a statement.
The expensive artwork will go on display at the museum in spring of 2025 with another one of Cimabue’s paintings, called the Maestà, which is currently being restored.
The panel will not join the two others that are known to exist, as one of them, “The Flagellation of Christ,” is owned by the Frick Collection in New York, white the other, “The Virgin and Child with Two Angels,” is on display at the National Gallery in London.
As for the old woman who unknowingly owned the wildly expensive artwork, she was unable to enjoy the spoils of the sale, as she died two days after the auction.
According to the Smithsonian, her three heirs split the proceeds from the pre-Renaissance windfall.