The €24 millions CIMABUE


A « 26 x 20 » cm early Renaissance masterpiece alleged to 13th-century Florentine painter Cimabue fetched €24,18 millions at auction (€19,5 millions plus fees), becoming the most expensive pre-Renaissance painting of the market and the 8th most expensive old masters painting ever transacted according to the auction house statement.


The historic painting has been presented at auction in the French countryside on October 27th, 2019 and ranks now alongside works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, Rembrandt and Raphael in the top 10 of most expensive old painting transactions.


Cimabue was one of the pioneering artists of the early Italian Renaissance. Only 11 works painted on wood have been attributed to him and none of them are signed. Art experts have employed infrared technologies to confirm the authenticity of the piece and its attribution to a larger diptych composed of eight scenes and dated from 1280. Each of the two panels in the diptych had four scenes. Two scenes from the same diptych, known as The Virgin and Child with Two Angels and The Flagellation of Christ, already stand in the National Gallery in London and the Frick Collection in New York.


The auction house also stated a foreign museum had been among the bidders but did not reveal the identity of the final « presumedly foreign » buyer.


“When an unique work of a painter as rare as Cimabue comes to market, you have to be ready for surprises,” said the auctioneer.


And the surprise?….well, let’s guess…while the final price accredits the thesis of an international buyer, the painting doesn’t yet benefit from an export certificate as the request for the document is rumoured to have been placed only two weeks prior to the sale while a four months notice for an answer is usually expected. Which, consequently, could allow the French state to have more time to gather the appropriate finance to preempt the artwork, most probably through the Louvre Museum, at an indisputable price but long after the limit of preemption time specified in the auction sale conditions...?


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