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Painting destined for the bin ends up at Louvre and valued at €24m

It is being hailed as a ‘crucial milestone’ in the history of art and will have an exhibition dedicated to it

The Derision of Christ by Cimabue will be exhibited at the Louvre in 2025 Pic: Hervé Lewandowski/Musée du Louvre and Alberto Zamorano/Shutterstock

A new masterpiece, The Derision of Christ, has joined the priceless collection of the Louvre, having been rescued from heading to the bin just a few years ago. 

Painted by Cimabue, a 13th century painter from Florence, the painting will be the subject of an exhibition from 2025. 

It is a "crucial milestone in the history of art, marking the fascinating transition from icon to painting," according to the museum's director, Laurence des Cars in a statement released last week.

The Derision of Christ, Cimabue (Musée du Louvre/ Hervé Lewandowski)

A different destiny 

The fate of this painting could have been considerably different however. 

In 2019, a nonagenarian living in Compiègne in Oise (Hauts-de-France) had asked an auctioneer to visit to estimate her belongings, most of which were destined to be sent to waste disposal. 

Hanging between the kitchen and dining area, a wooden frame measuring 24 by 20 centimetres caught the attention of the auctioneer  because of its impressive finish. 

The painting, believed to have belonged to the owner's family for many years, depicts a biblical scene of Jesus surrounded by an angry mob.

After appraisal, the work was definitively attributed to the Florentine master Cimabue (1240-1302), considered one of the precursors of the Renaissance. 

Estimated at €4 million, the painting was eventually acquired by the Louvre for €24 million. 

The auctioneer who found the painting Philomène Wolf, 32, had just set up on her own as a commissaire-priseur (auctioneer) the year before so it was a great first find. 

“It is a wonderful thing to have happened so early in my career,” she told Connexion

Read more: French family keepsake up for auction at €24m

Exhibition in 2025

The museum has announced that it is planning an exhibition dedicated to this new painting in spring 2025, in which it will be presented alongside the Maestà, another masterpiece by Cimabue belonging to the institution's collections.

Cimabue scholars have even come to the conclusion that The Derision of Christ was part of a series of eight panels, of which only two had been found so far. 

The Flagellation of Christ is in the Frick Collection in New York, while The Virgin and Child can be admired in the National Gallery in London.

Cimabue is considered a major figure of the Italian pre-Renaissance by art historians.

His abandonment of the rigid conventions of Byzantine art, represented a crucial moment in the history of art and made him a reference for many artists, including most famously Giotto.

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