After setting a record when it sold at auction outside Paris earlier this year, a painting by Cimabue, a giant in the history of medieval art, won’t be leaving France anytime soon.
On Monday, the French state blocked the export of the Cimabue painting, Christ Mocked (ca. 1280). The painting must now remain in France for the next 30 months, and the country is hoping to be able to raise the funds to acquire the work. If the work is successfully bought by the French state, it could join a related—and similarly prized—work by Cimabue at the Louvre in Paris.
“Thanks to the time given by this measure, all efforts can be mobilized so that this exceptional work can enrich national collections,” Franck Riester, the minister of culture, said in a statement.
Christ Mocked made headlines this past September when it was discovered in home of a woman living in Compiègne, France, where it had hung above a hotplate. After being attributed to Cimabue, the painting headed to sale at the Actéon auction house in the nearby town of Senlis, where it shot past its estimate, selling for $26.6 million and setting a new record for the most expensive medieval painting ever to hit the block. According to the auction house, Christ Mocked is the only Cimabue ever sold in the market.
When the sale took place in October, Reuters reported that the buyer was not known. Christ Mocked is believed to be part of a triptych, with the other two panels residing in the holdings of the Frick Collection in New York and the National Gallery in London.