Archive for the ‘Medieval’ Category

Rare box-shaped Viking brooch found in Estonia

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

A rare early Viking brooch has been found in the village of Varja, northeastern Estonia. The box-shaped brooch is one of only two of its kind ever discovered in Estonia, and the other one has not been handed in to heritage authorities yet. The other one is also of later date.

The Varja brooch was made of bronze cast in a single piece. It is in excellent condition, intact with only minor damage to the surface, likely from agricultural activity disturbing it when it was underground, and its steel pin missing.

The decoration is of the Broa or Oseberg style, characterized by sinuous animal figures and “gripping beast” motifs (creatures grasping the borders around them in their paws, usually their own serpentine bodies or another animal). The Boa style dates the brooch to between the late 8th century and the mid-9th.

The brooch was unearthed at the site of an ancient wetland which is believed to have had a single farm during the Viking era.

Kiudsoo explained that the village of Varja is situated in the northeastern part of the ancient parish of Askälä, and that this region on Estonia’s northern coast, between Purtse River and the present-day city of Kohtla-Järve, stands out for its exceptionally rich archaeological find material. The Eastern Route, an important Viking-era trade route, ran along Estonia’s northern coast.

The archaeologist said that he believes that the brooch found at Varja belonged to a woman born on the island of Gotland, who took up residence in the Viru region of Estonia later in her life. Supporting this hypothesis is the fact that similar decorative items were in widespread use in Gotland during the Viking era, but are not common elsewhere. Kiudsoo said that hundreds of box-shaped brooches like the one recently found in Estonia have been found in Gotland.


Nested Viking boat burials found in Norway

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

Two Viking-era boat burials have been found, one inside the other, in Vinjeøra, central Norway. The graves were unearthed by a team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) University Museum in October who were excavating a known Viking era burial ground in advance of highway construction. They first came across the burial of an elite woman dating to the second half of the 9th century. Then they found a second burial, this one for an elite man dating to the 8th century, under hers.

“I had heard about several boat graves being buried in one burial mound, but never about a boat that had been buried in another boat,” said Raymond Sauvage, an archaeologist at the NTNU University Museum and project manager for the excavation.

“I have since learned that a few double boat graves were found in the 1950s, at Tjølling, in the south of the Norwegian county of Vestfold. Still, this is essentially an unknown phenomenon,” he said

The man was buried in boat around 30 feet (9-10 meters) long. Interred with him were a spear, a shield and a single-edged sword. The style of the sword is what dates the grave to the 8th century, the Merovingian era. The woman’s burial boat was about 25 feet long (7-8 meters) and interred with her were a pearl necklace, two scissors, a spindle whorl and the head of a cow. Her garment was fastened at the chest with two gilded bronze shell-shaped brooches and a cruciform brooch that was originally a horse fitting of Irish manufacture likely taken in a raid and repurposed as jewelry.

The wood of both boats has almost entirely rotted away (a small piece of the keel of the woman’s boat was the only survivor), but the rivets were all in place and undisturbed. Archaeologists were able to determine the size and shape of the boat by mapping the rivets, and that’s how they realized instead of a single boat they had discovered a smaller one nested inside a larger one. This was not a haphazard stacking. The first grave had to have been painstakingly excavated so as not to disturb the remains and grave goods and then the woman’s boat carefully placed within.

The two boat graves were found on the edge of what had once been the largest burial mound on the site. The mound had eroded to flatness over the centuries of agricultural use of  the land, but archaeologists hoped to find artifacts, if not remains, from the central grave in the middle of the tumulus. They did discover an early Merovingian-era brooch, confirming that the mound pre-dates both the boat burials.

But what was the connection between the man and the woman? Sauvage says it’s reasonable to assume that the two were related. The Vikings on Vinjeøra probably had a clear idea about who was in each burial mound, since this information most likely was passed down for many generations.

“Family was very important in Viking Age society, both to mark status and power and to consolidate property rights. The first legislation on allodial rights in the Middle Ages said you had to prove that your family had owned the land for five generations. If there was any doubt about the property rights, you had to be able to trace your family to “haug og hedni” – i.e. to burial mounds and paganism” says Sauvage.

“Against this backdrop, it’s reasonable to think that the two were buried together to mark the family’s ownership to the farm, in a society that for the most part didn’t write things down,” Sauvage says.

While the soil is too acidic for good bone preservation, fragments of the woman’s skull and teeth were found in the grave. Researchers will attempt to extract DNA from the remains and perform stable isotope analysis to find out where she grew up and what she ate. Archaeologists will return to the site next year to continue the excavation of the mound. The goal is to unearth any artifacts associated with the central burial.

This brief but illuminating video recreates the boat burials and their contents as they would have looked originally. CGI rendering artfully illustrates how the two boat graves fit with each and in the context of the earlier burial mound.


The pristine view inside Frederick III’s tomb

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

In the Apostles’ Choir of the great Gothic cathedral of St. Stephen’s in Vienna lies the monumental tomb of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III (r. 1452-1493), the first emperor of many to follow from the House of Habsburg and the last HRE be crowned by the Pope (Nicholas V) in Rome. Made from the prized red marble peppered with fossil inclusions from the Adnet quarry near Salzburg, the massive sarcophagus and platform were carved by Dutch sculptor Nikolaus Gerhaert van Leyden. Gerhaert carved all of the coat of arms of the emperor’s dominions around the side of the sarcophagus and peopled it with an incredible proliferation of some 240 figures climbing the edges, peering out from underneath it, and standing in classical dignity on the arches of the platform. It took Gerhaert, his workshop and his successors 50 years to complete the tomb. Frederick’s son Maximilian I had his body moved with much pomp and circumstance from the ducal crypt to the completed tomb in 1513, 20 years after his death.

The tomb is justifiably considered a masterpiece of late medieval sculpture, and also bore the distinction of being the only one of 14 tombs of kings and Holy Roman Emperors not to have been looted, damaged, altered or its contents moved. That changed in 1969, when a rumor spread that the tomb had in fact been empty all this time. A peephole was drilled into the side of the tomb and officials used lamps and mirrors to confirm that funerary goods and the imperial remains were indeed present.

In 2013, the 500th anniversary of Frederick III’s burial in the tomb, researchers embarked on a thorough study of the tomb aided by modern technology. The little hole was put to use again, this time to thread through endoscopes that lit the dark space and took photographs with a wifi-enabled camera and cellphone. They also took samples, fragments of the coffin and one tiny piece of a textile inside the sarcophagus.

The results of this study six years in the making are being revealed now and they document the most elaborate internment of a medieval European ruler ever found. The photographs capture a sumptuous interior indicating that Maximilian spared no expense on his father’s final resting place. The emperor’s remains were placed a coffin made of glazed ceramic tiles, draped in richly patterned textiles, his head resting on a pillow. Lining both sides of the sarcophagus are gilded tablets with inscriptions praising Frederick’s many accomplishments and Maximilian’s filial devotion in laying his father to rest “in hoc precioso monomento” (“in this precious monument”).

The unexpectedly elaborate imperial crown is made of gilded silver decorated with floral flourishes and vividly colored enamel inlays. It is the oldest surviving example of the mitre-crown that would become standard equipage for the Habsburg emperors when in 1602 Emperor Rudolf II commissioned the imperial crown that would grace all the heads of Holy Roman Emperors and Austrian Emperors until 1918. Its mitred dome and frontal cross were inspired by Papal regalia, symbolizing the emperor’s divine right to his throne and his anointment by the Pope. The crown was placed on Frederick’s skull which had been carefully wrapped in linen and covered with a piece of red fabric.

Along with the crown, Frederick was buried with an imperial orb and scepter placed a pillow to the right of his body. These were custom-made for his tomb. They were not the regalia of office. A sword was by his left side, as was a wooden arm that had fallen off a crucifix placed on his chest. The detail of the enamel and metalwork indicates they were produced by Italian artisans.

The textiles overall are in remarkable condition. From the photographs and samples, researchers were able to identify three different textiles. The body is shrouded in one (probably linen), and then covered with two large silk velvet panels with silver gilt threads. They too are of Italian manufacture and date to shortly after the Emperor’s death in 1493.

The full findings of the project, In hoc precioso monomento. The Burial of Emperor Frederick III, edited by Franz Kirchweger, will be published by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in December.


Kitchen Cimabue sells for $26.6 million

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

"Christ Mocked" by Cimabue, ca. 1280. Photo courtesy Actéon and Eric Turquin.Cimabue’s Christ Mocked, discovered in an elderly lady’s kitchen in Compiegne, France, has sold at auction for a hammer price of 19.5 million euros, 24 million euros ($26.6 million) including fees. The pre-sale estimate for this 13th century masterpiece by an artist whose exceedingly rare work has literally never come up for auction before was $6.6 million, so yeah, to quote Jon Lovitz in A League of Their Own, well then, this would be more, wouldn’t it?

Dominique Le Coent of Acteon Auction House, who sold the masterpiece to an anonymous buyer near Chantilly, north of Paris, said the sale represented a “world record for a primitive, or a pre-1500 work.”

“It’s a painting that was unique, splendid and monumental. Cimabue was the father of the Renaissance. But this sale goes beyond all our dreams,” Le Coent told The Associated Press. […]

Le Coent said experts were off the mark because it was the first time a Cimabue had ever gone under the hammer. “There’s never been a Cimabue painting on sale so there was no reference previously on how much it could make,” he explained.

The Acteon auction house has not revealed the identity of the buyer but did note that a “foreign museum” was among the bidders. Indeed, it would be astonishing if there weren’t more than one museum amongst the would-be buyers. There are only 11 known Cimabue paintings in the world, all in museums. There aren’t going to be any other opportunities to make a score like this.

The former owner, who is her 90s and was selling her home and all its contents, is now a millionaire 20 times over. The rest of her stuff sold for 6,000 euros. Everything that wasn’t deemed salable got carted off to the dump. Had the auction appraiser not spotted the little tempera-on-poplar-panel 10×8-inch piece hanging on the wall over the hotplate and thought it might be worth a few hundred thousand as an Italian primitive original, that Cimabue could have suffered the same fate.


Rare medieval arrowhead found in Norway

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

A rare iron arrowhead estimated to be about 1,000 years old has been discovered in the mountains of the Hardanger Plateau in central southern Norway. Local resident Ernst Hagen found it lying casually on the ground when he was out for a walk outside his mountain cabin near the spectacular Vøringsfossen waterfall. (He’s in rarified company; composer Edvard Grieg had a cabin there too.)

Realizing the hunting tool had to predate the use of firearms, Hagen took the 12 cm (4.7 inches) iron arrowhead to the county council where archaeologist Tore Slinning confirmed it was a historic piece and no comparable finds had been reported in Hordaland county. Experts have estimated it to date to the early Middle Ages based on its design.

The plateau, the largest eroded plain plateau in Europe, has a cold alpine climate and is home to the Hardangerjøkulen glacier, one of Norway’s largest. There is archaeological evidence of villages in the area going back to the Neolithic era. These are believed to have been nomadic settlements occupied temporarily by hunters following the migrating herds of reindeer. Even today the plateau is home to some of the largest herds of reindeer in the world who cross from their winter feeding grounds east of the plateau to their summer breeding grounds on the west side.

Artifact finds are extremely rare in the area, with small objects destroyed by the glacier movement or covered in ice and snow. Norway’s glaciers have shrunk by 12% over the past 50 years, however, and the glacier retreat is rapidly increasing due to climate change. As with other endangered cold environments, archaeological finds that would otherwise be preserved indefinitely in the ice are being exposed by thaw.

The arrowhead is rusted and could have been so since shortly after the medieval reindeer hunter missed his quarry a thousand years ago. It may also have oxidized very recently when the artifact was exposed to the air after the ice melted. The same goes for the wooden shaft and fletching which have not survived. If the arrow was trapped in soil, they may have decomposed over many centuries. If the whole thing was encased ensconced in ice, on the other hand, we may have lost them very recently.

The arrowhead is now being conserved at the University Museum in Bergen. It will be stabilized so that it does not continue to corrode and experts will attempt to narrow down its date of manufacture.


Church donates medieval hand-bell donated to National Museum of Ireland

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin has donated an early medieval hand-bell believed to date to the 8th or 9th century to the National Museum of Ireland. The bell is something of a mysterious object and little is known about its ancient and recent past.

The Knockatemple Hand-Bell was discovered in 1879 at the site of a ruined church in Knockatemple near Glendalough Co. Wicklow. Dr. W. Frazer announced to the Royal Irish Academy on May 26, 1879, the results of the excavation on behalf of Mr. Henry Keogh of Roundwood House who explored the ruins of the church that year.

“This church is situation in the parish of Newcastle, Co. Wicklow, near Roundwood, and in the vicinity of the Vartry Water Reservoir. There appear to be no reliable records of its foundation or destruction, which is so complete that its walls were level to the ground, and what remained of it required to be cleared out of clay and rubbish for two or three feet before the flooring was reached. It must have been a large building, 50 feet long and 26 feet wide, with two side aisles 9 feet wide in the clear, and 26 feet in length, which from the plan may have been of later erection that the church itself. It was disposed east and west, and the floor, which was on the south side, was 4 feet in width. The aisles as well as the central portion of the church were paved with large flat stones, and in one of the aisles to the northward was what Mr. Keogh conjectures to be the remains of a stone altar situated in the east of the building; but he could find no trace of an altar in the body of the church itself. […]

The large square-shaped bronze bell…, measures 12 inches high, and 8 inches across. It was found at the east end of the church, about two feet under the surface, near the position the altar would occupy. It had a handle, which was broken off by the workmen in excavating it…. They also damaged one part of the top of the bell with a pickaxe. Mr. Keogh has polished a corner of it, and it consists of fine bronze made in two portions, the halves being rivetted together.

There was no indication as to the age of the bell noted in the 19th century records. The only artifacts recovered in the 1879 excavation with absolute dates were two coins of Henry III of England (r. 1216-1272) and Alexander II of Scotland (r. 1214-1249) found in burials in the clay and debris layer, so either disturbed church burials or post-destruction interrals.

The bell’s history after its excavation is obscure too. The Archdiocese has owned it since the 1920s. They believe it was bought at auction by a priest of St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, the episcopal seat of the Archbishop of Dublin, in 1915. In 1927, the discovery of the bell was recorded in The Deaneries of Arklow and Wicklow a paper by V Rev. Myles V. Ronan published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Ronan’s description differed slightly from Frazer’s in that he recognized the bell was made of iron with “traces of bronze plating.”

The Archdiocese wasn’t actively aware of the delicate historic treasure in its care until Cormac Bourke a curator of Medieval antiquities at the Ulster Museum, Belfast, tracked down the bell through the records and reached out to the Diocesan Archives a few years ago. Realizing the artifact needed special conservatorial experience, Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, wrote to the National Museum of Ireland telling them about the bell and offering to donate it to the National Collection of historic hand-bells.

Archbishop Martin officially presented the Knockatemple Hand-Bell to Maeve Sikora, Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the NMI, on September 26th.


Huge medieval coin hoard found in Denmark

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

A hoard of approximately 1,000 silver and copper coins from the Middle Ages has been found in the woods near Vejle, southeastern Denmark. It is the first medieval coin hoard and the greatest treasure from the Middle Ages ever found in this part of the country and will shed new light on the history of trade in the area.

The hoard was found by VejleMuseerne archaeologist Kasper Terp Høgsberg who was searching the area where individual coins had been found earlier: four of them in March 2017, another in August 2018 and another in September of this year. The finders had turned them into the museum, and after the most recent discovery, Høgsberg decided to investigate the site with a metal detector. He was astonished when his detector started signalling over and over and he quickly found coin after coin just under the surface.

“It felt completely unreal. It is a once-in-a-lifetime thing to find such a treasure. It will never happen again in my career as an archaeologist!” said Høgsberg.

“I thought I was going to find a lost purse with 20 coins along a road, but it just kept going until I eventually had hundreds of coins.”

To get an overview of the walking trail and perhaps find a central location where a hoard might have been buried, Høgsberg scanned along the path. A little ways up on a slope, the detector gave a strong signal. The archaeologist called in a colleague and together they dug out a large block of soil for removal to the Conservation Center in Vejle. As they dug around the area indicated by the detector, they found fragments of pottery and textile with coins still attached to them. This was how the hoard had been buried: wrapped in a cloth and placed in a vessel.

In total, they discovered 803 loose coins, 80% of them silver, 20% copper, along the path and an estimated couple of hundred still ensconced in the burial pot. That’s not counting the six individual ones found over the past two years or any other random finds people might have picked up while strolling through the woods. The museum has made a call to the public to turn in any coins found in the park.

Most of the coins were minted in Hanseatic League cities in Germany around 1400. There are also some Danish coins of yet-to-be-determined dates and one that has been dated to 1424. That is the most recent coin of the ones that have been examined, so the hoard had to have been buried after that. In the first half of the 15th century, Erik of Pomerania ruled Denmark and there were significant conflicts, some escalating to full-blown wars, between Denmark and the Hanseatic cities of northern Germany. Nonetheless, the Hanseatic League remained Denmark’s main trading partner throughout the period, hence the high number of German coins in the hoard.

While it’s difficult to do any direct conversion of currency from 600 years ago, in terms of buying power all the silver coins in the hoard could have bought 10 cows or supported a farmer’s family for more than a year.

The 803 loose coins will go on temporary display at the Spinderihallerne Culture Museum in Vejle this autumn. The coins still attached to the surviving textile and pot are currently being excavated and conserved.


Well-preserved dog remains found in Peru

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

The well-preserved remains of a 1000-year-old dog have been discovered in the Sechin archaeological site in Peru. The dog’s remains are in excellent condition, with significant patches of yellow and brown fur and toe pads still extant.

Sechin, a prehistoric site in northern Peru’s Casma and Sechin river valleys, was inhabited from at least 7600 B.C., the earliest radiocarbon date result from the settlement. Very little is known about the population, but the site was occupied by the Casma/Sechin culture for thousands of years. By 3600 B.C. they were building monumental structures like pyramids, plazas and friezes. The plaza and frieze at Sechin Bajo are the two oldest monumental structures known in the Americas. The Casma/Sechin culture appears to have abandoned Sechin as a result of a war around 100 B.C., but they would later reoccupy it.

The dog’s remains, which date to the reoccupation period, are the second discovery made by the archaeological team since excavations began. It was discovered in the main structure of Sechin, a monumental complex believed to have had religious purpose. Preliminary investigation of the dog suggest it was a native breed from the prehispanic era that was used in the temple.

The excavation project aims to find out more about the history and people Sechin. More finds are expected now the dig has encountered the most recent habitation layer. This first stage of excavations will end in November. After a break for winter, the next stage will begin.


Anglo-Saxon name found on Galloway Hoard arm-ring

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

The first round of research into the Galloway Hoard, the richest and most varied Viking hoard ever discovered in Britain or Ireland, has revealed a name and it’s an Anglo-Saxon name, not a Viking one.  Five of the silver armbands in the hoard have runes etched on them. Runic scripts are varied, complex and were used for several different languages so interpreting them can be challenging. Dr. David Parsons of the University of Wales was able to decipher the Old English runes inscribed on one of the silver arm-rings. They read “Ecgbeorht,” an ancient spelling of the name “Egbert.”

“Five of the silver arm-rings have runic inscriptions scratched into them which may have functioned as labels identifying distinct portions of the hoard, perhaps recording the names of the people who owned and buried them. Arm-rings of this sort are most commonly associated with Viking discoveries around the Irish Sea coastlands. Yet these runes are not of the familiar Scandinavian variety common around this date on the nearby Isle of Man, but of a distinctively Anglo-Saxon type. And while several of the texts are abbreviated and uncertain, one is splendidly clear: it reads Ecgbeorht, Egbert, a common and thoroughly Anglo-Saxon man’s name.

There is some reason, therefore, to suspect that the Galloway ‘Viking’ Hoard may have been deposited by a people who, to judge by name and choice of script, may have considered themselves part of the English-speaking world. It is even possible that these were locals: Galloway had been part of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria since the early eighth century, and was referred to as the ‘Saxon coast’ in the Irish chronicles as late as the tenth century.”

The fact that a man’s name was etched into one of the 100 pieces in the hoard does not mean he’s the person who assembled it and/or buried it, notwithstanding the plethora of current headlines hyping Egbert as the hoard’s owner. The three abbreviated Anglo-Saxon runic inscriptions also seem to have been names, and the fourth one which has yet to be deciphered could be one too, so it’s not about the “owner of the Galloway Hoard found,” but rather evidence in favor of Anglo-Saxon speakers having had their hands on at least some elements of this hoard before it was buried in the early 10th century.

Dr Adrian Maldonado, Glenmorangie Research Fellow at National Museums Scotland, said:

“If the hoard belonged to a person or group of Anglo-Saxon speakers, does it mean they were out raiding with other Vikings? Or that these Viking hoards were not always the product of Scandinavian raiders? There are other explanations, but either way this transforms our thinking on the ‘Viking Age’ in Scotland.

“These inscriptions are evidence that identity was complex in the past, just as it can be today. In Early Medieval Scotland, we have inscriptions in five different scripts (Latin, ogham, Pictish symbols, Scandinavian and Anglian runes) making it a diverse and multilingual era. Place-names in British, Gaelic, Norse and Old English were being coined in South West Scotland around the time of the Galloway Hoard.  The sea was more like a motorway, allowing people to communicate across linguistic boundaries, exchanging ideas and objects. This is just a glimpse of how the Galloway Hoard will continue to challenge our thinking as conservation continues.”

The Hoard is not on display as conservators and researchers work on it. Next spring will kick off a new exhibition tour at four museums in Scotland beginning with the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in May.

Meanwhile, the Galloway Hoard is at the center of a whole different kind of show right now, a courtroom drama, if you will. You might recall that back in 2017 when National Museums Scotland announced that it had raised the $2.5 million for the ex gratia payment to secure the hoard, the award was going to be split down the middle between the finder, metal detectorist Derek McLennan, and the owners of the field where the hoard was found, the Church of Scotland. Well two years have passed, and not only has the Church not received a penny of those millions, McLennan has full on ghosted them. They can’t even reach him on the phone.

It turns out that everywhere else in the UK, the Treasure Act stipulates that awards are to be split between finder and landowner, but in Scotland all payment divisions are solely at the discretion of the finders. The widely accepted practice among metal detectorists is the 50/50 split because it encourages landowners to grant them permission to search their land. No place to look, nothing to find. A partnership relationship benefits everyone.

According to the Church of Scotland, this agreement was formalized between both parties when the National Museums Scotland raised the funds. They would split the proceeds and the Church would use its share “for the good of the local parish.” A year later, the Church reached out to Reverend David Bartholomew, a metal detectorist friend of McLennan’s who had been with him the day of the find, asking him to find out what was up with the moneys because he wasn’t responding to their attempts to contact him. So then Bartholomew tried calling, emailing, writing letters and even showed up at his house, all to no avail.

The Church of Scotland has now filed suit. McLennan has not responded to any requests for comment from the media.


Cimabue masterpiece found in French kitchen

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

A painting that for years hung over a hotplate in a Compiegne kitchen has been identified as a 13th century tempera-on-panel by Cimabue. Its owner, a woman in her 90s, knew nothing about it. She thought it was a Russian religious icon and had no recollection of how or when she’d gotten it. Even though it had been perched over the hotplate for years, it was in good condition. When the elderly lady decided to move out and sell her 1960s home and its contents, she contacted a local auctioneer to see if there was anything worse selling. The appraiser had a week to go through the house before the owner sent everything to the dump.

She noticed the painting over the hotplate right away and thought it might be something special, an Italian primitive piece worth several hundred thousand euros, at least. She suggested they get expert from Paris to assess it. Old Masters specialists from the Turquin gallery in Paris examined the painting in detail, including under infrared light, and determined that it is was painted by Cimabue.

“It’s a major discovery for the history of art,” Pinta said of the newly discovered work measuring about 10 inches by 8 inches (24 centimeters by 20 centimeters). Other experts agreed.

The Florentine painter Cenni di Pepo (c. 1240 – c. 1302), nicknamed Cimabue, was a pioneering artists of the late medieval period who introduced naturalistic emotion and perspective into the two-dimensional, heavily symbolic Byzantine painting style. In so doing, he and contemporaries like his student Giotto were key to the transition of the static, stylized painting of Middle Ages into the Italian Renaissance. There are only 11 known panel paintings by Cimabue and none of them are signed.

The newly discovered panel, Christ Mocked, depicts Jesus surrounded by a jeering mob after his trial before the Sanhedrin, an event described in all three Synoptic Gospels. It was originally part of a larger piece, perhaps an altarpiece diptych, that depicted several small scenes from Christ’s Passion and death. It was dismembered and sold off in individual lots, a sadly common fate for rare early panel paintings during the frenzied souvenir collecting of the Grand Tour era. Scholars believe that two other panels from the piece are now in the Frick Collection in New York and National Gallery, London.

The Frick acquired its panel, The Flagellation of Christ, in 1950, but at the time it was loosely attributed only to the Tuscan school. It wasn’t confirmed as the work of the innovative medieval master until 2000 when the companion piece now in the National Gallery, The Virgin and Child with Two Angels, was rediscovered in the ancestral home of a Suffolk aristocrat and was accepted by the government in lieu of Inheritance Tax. The wood — type, carpentry and condition, down to the wormholes — and paint — material and style — comparison marked the two panels as having been painted at the same time by Cimabue.

After examining the French kitchen find, Turquin gallery specialists concluded with “certitude” it bore hallmarks of Cimabue’s work, Pinta said.

They noted clear similarities with the two panels of Cimabue’s diptych, one displayed at the Frick Collection in New York and the other at the National Gallery in London.

Likenesses in the facial expressions and buildings the artist painted and the techniques used to convey light and distance specifically pointed to the small piece having been created by Cimabue’s hand.

The work will go under the hammer at the Acteon auction house in Senlis, north of Paris, on October 27. It is estimated to sell between four and six million euros ($4.3 million – $6.6 million), but the sky is the limit really. This is the first time a Cimabue has ever come up for auction and museums and collectors with the deepest pockets imaginable are going to be gunning for it.





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