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Nearly thrown away, Catholic icon revealed to be Renaissance treasure

Cimabue's Christ Mocked
Philippe LOPEZ | AFP
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Cimabue’s “Christ Mocked” is expected to sell for millions when put up for auction next month.

A 90-year-old woman who wished to remain anonymous was shocked to discover that the Catholic icon that hung in her house for years was really a masterpiece by the Renaissance artist Cimabue. The piece, titled “Christ Mocked,” has survived since the 13th century and was appraised to be worth between 4 million and 6 million euros.

Angelique Chrisafis from The Guardian reports that the owner of the icon had decided to move and was preparing to throw away just about everything in the house. She called in an expert, Philomène Wolf, from a local auction house to appraise anything that might be valuable. Wolf told The Guardian that she identified something special in the icon the moment it came into view.

“You rarely see something of such quality. I immediately thought it was a work of Italian primitivism. But I didn’t imagine it was a Cimabue.”

Cimabue was an influential artist in Renaissance Italy and is credited with advancing art through the use of proper proportion. Among his greatest works is a large 8-section diptych — a painting on wood with two hinged panels that may close like a book — depicting the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ. The newly discovered work is believed to be a part of this greater piece.

Wolf explained that she initially expected the work to be valued for several hundred thousand euros, but once art experts in Paris viewed the piece and its historical status was revealed, it was valued in the millions. Since the preliminary examinations, the icon has been subjected to scientific study, which determined beyond a doubt that it was painted by Cimabue.

The icon is set to go up for auction on October 27 at the Acteon auction house in Senlis.

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