The French woman believed that the tiny painting was simply a religious piece with no real value

By Hannah Chubb
October 29, 2019 05:04 PM
Michel Euler/AP/Shutterstock

An elderly woman in France had the surprise of a lifetime last month when she discovered an old painting in her home was worth more than $26.6 million. 

The painting was found in the city of Compiègne in northern France, where it had been hanging above a hotplate in the woman’s kitchen for many years. According to the BBC, the woman believed that it was simply a religious piece with no real value. She was very wrong.

An auctioneer spotted the artwork — which measures just eight inches by ten inches — and suggested the woman have a series of tests performed using infrared light to determine its worth. 

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The tests indicated that the painting was made by the famous pre-Renaissance Italian painter Cimabue, also known as Cenni di Pepo. Titled Christ Mocked, the piece is believed to be part of a polyptych (a painting that consists of three or more panels) created in 1280, depicting Christ’s crucifixion. 

Michel Euler/AP/Shutterstock

An auctioneer named Dominique Le Coent from Acteon Auction House initially valued the painting at $7,720,200, but sold it for $26,600,000 to an anonymous French buyer — more than four times what he expected.

He explained to Reuters that, “When a unique work of a painter as rare as Cimabue comes to market, you have to be ready for surprises.”

Acteon Auction House told BBC that the painting now holds the world record for the most expensive piece of Medieval artwork to ever be sold at auction

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According to the news outlet, two other pieces from the polyptych series can be found at art museums across the world — one at London’s National Gallery, and one at the Frick Collection in New York.