An extremely rare work by the pre-Renaissance Italian painter Cimabue has been acquired by the Louvre. The gold-backed work, executed on poplar panel, made headlines four years ago after it was discovered above the oven in the kitchen of an elderly French lady.

In October 2019 it was auctioned, sparking a bidding war. According to The Art Newspaper, it was acquired from the Alana Collection of “old” Italian artists in the State of Delaware in the US, owned by Álvaro Saieh and Ana Guzmán. Shortly after, the French Ministry of Culture declared it a “national treasure”. “The Mocking of Christ” (circa 1280) and banned him from leaving the country for 30 months. This period of time was enough for the Louvre to raise the amount of 24.2 million euros required to match the prevailing bid and thus acquire the work.

The 700-year-old panel is the missing part of a polyptych above the Holy Table, which depicts eight scenes from the Passion of Christ. It’s dimensions are accurate, as are the style and colors and the board comes from the same poplar board as the rest of the poly; even the worm holes match. By selling it, the old French woman became a millionaire, but she died two days later.

In a statement, Louvre director Laurence des Cars pointed out that the work “constitutes an important milestone in the history of art, marking the charming transition from iconography to painting.” He confirmed that it will be placed next to the Maestà, a larger tempera work by Cimabue that also dates to around 1280 and is undergoing restoration. This work has been in the Louvre collection since 1813, as it arrived as booty from Italy during the Napoleonic Wars.

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The museum also announced the recent acquisition of “Marine Terrace,” an 1855 work by French romantic writer and politician Victor Hugo. Both works will be presented to the art-loving public in a special exhibition-event, scheduled for early 2025.