In 2019, a small wooden painting was found in the kitchen of a nonagenarian. During the inventory of the goods, the experts from the Turquin cabinet understood that it was The Derision of Christ by Cimabue, a revered Florentine master, considered by art historians as the major figure of the Italian pre-Renaissance. Today, some five years later, after many adventures including an auction to a private collector culminating in 24 million euros, the Louvre has just announced the acquisition of this extremely rare work, which thus becomes the oldest from the collection dedicated to the pre-renaissance. And for curators, this essential milestone will allow us to better understand the evolution of Western painting.
The entry of The Derision of Christ, - also entitled The Mocked Christ -, makes Laurence des Cars, the president and director of the Louvre, enthusiastic: “Being able to announce the acquisition of these two exceptional works is a great joy for me. Firstly because Cimabue's La Mérision du Christ constitutes a crucial milestone in the history of art, marking the fascinating transition from icon to painting. It will soon be presented alongside the Maestà, another masterpiece by Cimabue belonging to the Louvre collections and whose restoration is currently continuing. Together, the two paintings will be the subject of an event exhibition in spring 2025.
Also read: Cimabue: exceptional discovery of a painting by the Florentine master in Compiègne
The story of the rediscovery of this masterpiece by Cimabue, the third missing link from one of the eight panels of a large diptych painted around 1280, is quite incredible. Found in the kitchen of a house in Compiègne, destined for scrap before appraisal because it was wrongly considered of no great value, it was finally examined by Éric Turquin, the expert on the famous and presumed Caravaggio, at the time highly publicized. .
Finally authenticated, La Dérision du Christ was initially estimated at between 4 and 6 million euros. Then the painting was acquired under the hammer in Senlis for the record sum of 24 million from a private buyer. It thus becomes “the 8th most expensive old painting sold in the world”.
Faced with the artistic and especially historical importance of this testimony to the beginnings of the Renaissance, the Ministry of Culture, at the end of 2019, decided to classify the work as a national treasure for thirty months. Today with its admission to the Louvre, followed by its exhibition in 2025, this conservation work has borne fruit. Visitors to the Louvre will therefore be able to admire it in a few months and understand how Cimabue opened the way for Giotto and his disciples.