Cimabue’s Legacy

Did you see the news???

An artwork, thought to be lost forever, showed up in a French woman’s house! Apparently, she had it in her kitchen above a hot pad. It’s still in amazing condition, considering everything, and art historians are totally squealing in excitement about this unexpected find!

Here’s a much more thorough article about it, by the Washington Post!

Oh, and here’s a teaser picture from the Washington Post, just in case you want to take a peek at what this artwork looks like…

“Art expert Eric Turquin inspects the painting “Christ Mocked,” a long-lost masterpiece by 13th-century Italian artist Cimabue that was found months ago hanging in a woman’s kitchen.” (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

There’s more pictures of this art, if you want to click on the article.

Now, the painting is admittedly dirty. Do you see that brown background? That’s actually supposed to be gold paint! When it gets restored, it is going to pop, let me tell you!

Also, it was painted on a panel made of poplar tree. In fact! One of the ways that they verified the authenticity of the painting was to look at the wood… and, what do you know, the wood from this painting matched some of his other paintings!

So, I figured I would feature another one of Cimabue’s masterpieces that was made on the same poplar, before the panels were divide.

The Flagellation of Christ, by Cimabue
The Flagellation of Christ, by Cimabue, c. 1280. The Frick Collection, New York, New York, United States.

It is an image of the Flagellation of Christ, which is more commonly known as the Scourging at the Pillar nowadays. Christ is tied to a column while men beat him with whips with the intent of scourging Him during His Passion.

It’s a fairly straightforward image, honestly. It’s very simple and illustrates the gospel in a very quick way. The men who are beating Christ have their eyebrows furrowed and grit their teeth as they beat Christ. And Then Jesus, who seems larger than either of the two men, looks at the viewer as if to ask us whether we are contemplating the brutality of His sorrowful Passion.

A simple image, right?

However, in its time, this was quite innovative! In fact, Cimabue, along with several other artists in the 13th century (Duccio and Giotto come to mind immediately) were some of the most innovative artists that changed how the West perceived art forever.

Before this time, religious artworks were very simply drawn, with only a limited attempt to make the faces look expressive. It was the knowledge of the gospel stories themselves that were supposed to elicit emotions. The icons only intended to remind you of the stories. But, you can clearly see that Cimabue intended to draw the viewer into the painting with Christ’s expression, so as to contemplate the Passion in a different way.

It was one of the stepping stones that paved the way to the artwork of the Renaissance and beyond that allow us to more deeply contemplate the gospel.

Isn’t it incredible???

And to think, the companion to this artwork was in a little old lady’s home!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

3 thoughts on “Cimabue’s Legacy

  • September 27, 2019 at 12:14 am

    Thank you for this post. I have a very cool connection to it!

    Last summer my husband and I were able to fulfill a dream and travel to Italy (first time out of the country) for our 40th anniversary. We went to Rome, Assisi, Perugia, Assisi, Siena, Florence, Venice, and Milan. We were totally blown away by
    all the cathedrals and the art that we saw!

    The frustrating part was that we were on a tour, and most of the cathedrals that we visited were during our free time, which was limited. (The exceptions were St. Peter’s Basilica and The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, for which we had guided tours.) The other frustration was that while I have always loved and collected books on religious art, I had never really studied art or particular artists, and didn’t even realize what we were seeing most of the time. We just knew it was awesome!

    But I took lots of pictures, and have now spent the last year obsessing over and collecting all kinds of books on Italian Medieval and Renaissance art and artists so that I could learn all about what I already saw (and drool over all the things I have yet to see). Imagine my surprise when I was researching an altarpiece I had photographed in an out-of-the-way church in Venice (San Zaccaria), and discovered that it was by Giovanni Bellini and is “perhaps his most famous painting . . . . and may be the most important example of a sacra conversazione scene in Italian Renaissance painting.”!!!!

    Now as for Cimabue . . . .

    We had seen his painting in the basilica in Assisi, and learned about his crucifix in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence. So in my search for a book about Cimabue, I came across Holly Flora’s “Cimabue and Early Italian Devotional Painting” and acquired it. (Side story – In fact, I have become quite adept at finding all kinds of nooks and crannies on the internet where a book I want might be found at a good price. This book sells for over $200 on Amazon and just about everywhere else. I was able to order it directly from the Frick Museum for $15.95!)

    Anyway, this book is all about the two previously known panels by Cimabue, one owned by the Frick and the other owned by the National Gallery, London, and their exhibition in 2006 at the Frick Museum side by side — the first time they have been together in America. I have already read some of this book and knew all about how the other panels were missing, so it was so exciting to read your post about another panel being found! I’m not sure I would have come across that news in my regular reading of current events.

    So, thanks for your blog I really find it interesting and inspiring! I also, like you, love sharing art with children. I used to teach 2nd grade Religious Ed., and one of the favorite lessons I did was to present the students with several different renditions of The Annunciation, and then have them search out and compare the religious symbols portrayed in them, before drawing their own Annunciation picture. They always turned out beautifully. What an amazing legacy of art we have in the Catholic faith!

    Thanks you!
    Diana Peat

    • October 8, 2019 at 1:19 am

      That sounds like an absolutely AMAZING trip!

      I had a similar experience a couple of years ago… I went to Rome for my honeymoon, and it was absolutely amazing in so many ways! BUT. At the time, I really didn’t now so much about art or anything, and so, even though I was thoroughly impressed with everything I saw, I still didn’t realize the enormity of it all. One day! I would like to go back to Italy again and just tour it and o to all these places that I’ve been eyeing at from a distance for several years. 🙂 Probably when my kids are grown up, lol!

      Also, yay for teaching kids religious art! One thing about kids that is amazing is that they have questions for EVERYTHING and, in order to answer my kids’ questions, I find myself researching all these little bits of symbolism, and honestly it’s just so fun. Having them draw their own icons seems absolutely fantastic. 🙂

      • October 9, 2019 at 12:15 am

        Yes, I am dying to go back. The problem is, I want to go back to every place we already went since now I know what we were really looking at, and also like you said to visit all the other places that I have been reading about. For example, how about seeing the mosaics in Ravenna, or all the paintings of Fra Angelico in the Convent of San Marco? My bucket list would be totally impossible!


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