An early Renaissance masterpiece worth up to £5million has been discovered hanging above an oven in an elderly French woman’s kitchen in a town near Paris.
The painting, named ‘Christ Mocked’ by Florentine master Cimabue, was kept in the lady’s home in the northern French town of Compiegne before she decided to get it valued.
She had it hanging between her kitchen and her living room – directly above a hotplate for cooking food, Old Masters specialists Turquin said.
The French painting’s elderly owner thought it was just a rather old religious icon when she took it to her local auctioneers – where it was estimated to be worth between £3-5million.
The painting is thought to be part of a large diptych dating from 1280 when Cimabue, who taught Giotto, painted eight scenes depicting Christ’s passion and crucifixion.
Two other scenes from the work hang in the National Gallery in London.
The scene in the National Gallery was also lost for centuries, and only found when a British aristocrat was clearing his ancestral seat in Suffolk. It was given to the nation in 2000.
Early Renaissance art was hugely influenced by Byzantine art, which is still produced in a similar style today on a background of gold paint.
However, tests using infrared light found that there was ‘no disputing that the painting was done by the same hand’ as other known works by Cimabue, said art expert Eric Turquin.
It will now go under the hammer at the Acteon auction house in Senlis, north of Paris, on October 27.