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Rare Italian masterpiece found in French kitchen sold for €24 million

A rare masterpiece by Italian early Renaissance master Cimabue that was discovered in a French kitchen was sold on Sunday for 24 million euros – some five times the initial estimate.

Rare Italian masterpiece found in French kitchen sold for €24 million
"Christ Mocked', the attributed to Cimabue, was found in a French kitchen. Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

The Acteon auction house did not identify the winning bidder for the painting, “Christ Mocked”, at the sale in Senlis, outside Paris.

READ ALSO: Old French lady discovers Italian Renaissance masterpiece in her kitchen

The selling price, which included costs, smashed the initial estimate of between four million and six million euros.

Bidding began at three million euros, with only three of the eight bidders present at the auction.

It is the first time in decades that a painting by Cimabue, a pioneering primitive painter who lived from 1272-1302 and is also known as Cenni di Pepo, has gone under the hammer.

Acteon said the figure was the highest ever reached for a mediaeval painting and the eighth-highest ever reached for a mediaeval or old master painting.

The highest figure ever reached for a painting was the $450 million paid for the Salvator Mundi attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and sold at auction in 2017.

Experts in September announced the sensational discovery of the painting by Cimabue which was owned by a woman in the northern French town of Compiegne, who had it hanging between her kitchen and her sitting room

She believed it was merely an old religious icon when she took it to the auctioneers to be valued.

Rare example of a Cimabue

The tiny unsigned work, measuring just 26 by 20 centimetres (10 by eight inches), was found to be in excellent condition, though covered in grime from having been displayed right above a cooking hotplate.

Art experts at Turquin in Paris used infrared reflectology to confirm that the piece is part of a larger diptych from 1280, when Cimabue painted eight scenes of the passion and crucifixion of Christ. Each of the two panels in the diptych had four scenes.

Only two other elements of the diptych are known to exist: “The Flagellation of Christ” displayed at the Frick in New York, and “The Virgin and Child with Two Angels” at the National Gallery in London.

Cimabue is renowned for his mosaics, frescoes and altarpieces. Historians say only about a dozen works on wood – all unsigned are thought to have been made by the Italian artist.

His more natural and nuanced depictions marked a turning point for Italian painters still influenced by highly stylised Byzantine art.

Art historians consider him a trailblazer for the creative Renaissance that would flourish under greats like Giotto, one of Cimabue's pupils.

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CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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