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France blocks export of Cimabue painting found in elderly woman's home

Cimabue's Christ Mocked

Philippe LOPEZ | AFP

John Burger - published on 12/28/19

Government says it is a "national treasure" and wants to raise enough funds to purchase it for the nation.

France is so intent on keeping a recently found masterpiece in the country that it has blocked the painting’s export until it can raise enough money to buy it.

The French government has declared the recently found 13th-century Cimabue painting to be a “national treasure,” the BBC reported.

“France has barred the export of Christ Mocked for 30 months to allow time to raise funds to buy it for the nation,” the British broadcaster said. “Found in September, it was sold at auction the following month for €24m (£20m; $27m).”

In September, it was reported that the owner of the painting, an elderly woman who assumed it was an old Russian 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 saw something special in the icon the moment it came into view.

Cimabue was an influential artist in Renaissance Italy and is credited with advancing art through the use of proper proportion. “His Christ Mocked is one of three panels that have survived from his work known as the Diptych of Devotion, painted around 1280,” the BBC said. “The other two panels are in New York and London’s National Gallery.”

The French culture ministry said in a statement that Christ Mocked was in good condition and revealed more than the other two panels how Cimabue used a new language of expression, especially “visible in the humanistic treatment of the face of Jesus, the rendition of people’s expressions or space.” It said that Culture Minister Franck Riester had followed the recommendation of France’s commission for national treasures to block the painting’s export abroad to allow funds to be raised with the aim of enabling the work to be exhibited in the Louvre in Paris alongside another Cimabue work, the Maestà de Santa Trinita.

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