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Lost 740-year-old Jesus painting found in woman's kitchen sells for £21million

A LONG-lost painting by a 13th-century Italian artist depicting Jesus Christ was discovered hanging in an elderly woman’s kitchen in Picardy, Northern France, and sold for €24million (£21million) at auction last weekend.

Cimabue, also known as Cenni di Pepi, was an Italian artist and designer of mosaics from Florence, Italy, generally considered as one of the first great painters to break from the Italo-Byzantine style. In 1280, “Christ Mocked” was painted by Cimabue to depict the passion of Jesus during his crucifixion and is believed to be one of 12 pieces of work known today, despite none being signed by the artist. It was discovered by Philomene Wolf, the auctioneer, who spotted the work when making an inventory list in the clearance of an elderly woman’s house.

She told France-Info radio: “The new owners wanted a big clear-out of everything.

“There were a lot of ordinary items but there was this little picture hanging over the kitchen surface in the modern house.”

She consulted Eric Turquin, a Paris specialist in Old Masters who made his name identifying a Caravaggio in Toulouse in 2014.

After four months of research and testing, he pronounced “with absolute certainty” that the work was part of a diptych by Cimabue, of which two other elements are known to exist.

The painting depicts the crucifiction of Jesus (Image: GETTY)Some other pieces by Cimabue (Image: GETTY)

The painting was expected to fetch up to €6million (£5.2million) at auction, but the winning bid far exceeded expectations, with the painting fetching four times the estimate.

Acteon Auction House said the sum, paid by an anonymous buyer from northern France, was a new world record for a medieval painting sold at auction.

Auctioneer Dominique Le Coent said: "There's never been a Cimabue painting on sale so there was no reference previously on how much it could make."

He added: "When a unique work of a painter as rare as Cimabue comes to market, you have to be ready for surprises."

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There are only 12 pieces known in circulation (Image: GETTY)

It comes after another piece of history made headlines last week.

A British archaeologist solved the mystery of the Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered cloth nearly 70 metres long and 50 centimetres tall depicting the Norman conquest of England following the Battle of Hastings.

For more than 900 years, debates have raged over the true origin of the mysterious material and whether it was meant to be displayed in England or France, but the mystery was solved after a British professor discovered it fits perfectly in a lost area of the Bayeux Cathedral.

Christopher Norton, Professor of Art History at the University of York, said: “It has always been the case that the simplest explanation is that it was designed for Bayeux Cathedral.

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The artwork shows the Mocking of Jesus (Image: GETTY)Bayeux Tapestry was also solved last week (Image: GETTY)

“This general proposition can now be corroborated by the specific evidence that the physical and narrative structure of the tapestry are perfectly adapted to fit the nave of the 11th-Century cathedral.”

Professor Norton’s research was based on mathematical calculations, analysis of documentary evidence including the linen fabric, and of surviving architectural details.

The discovery proves that the designer must have visited Bayeux and known the exact dimensions, adjusting the design accordingly.

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