Louvre Pays Junk Dealer $10 Million for Rare Medieval Pieta

Malouel PietaThe story of how the Louvre purchased a painting by medieval master Jean Malouel for €7.8 million ($10 million) begins, improbably enough, in 1985 in the small town of Vic-le-Comte in south-central France (population: 4,700). The parish priest, trying to raise money to install a heating system in the church, decided to sell various bric-a-brac and old furniture from a church storeroom. A second-hand dealer purchased the contents of the room in their entirety, and, as he combed through them, he noticed an ornate 18th-century frame that he thought might be worth something. As it turned out, the painting, not the frame, was the find — and it turned out to be more valuable than he ever would have imagined.

According to Le Figaro, after removing the frame, the second-hand dealer decided to restore the painting, which was mostly obscured by layers of whitewash. Discovering the gold background and the angels surrounding Christ, he realized that he had something special on his hands. It turned out to be Jean Malouel’s “Pietà with Saint John and Two Angels,” painted before 1404. Back in 1999, the dealer first approached the Louvre, which also owns a round pietà by Jean Malouel, about purchasing the piece. (The only other known painting by the Flemish-born Malouel, who was the official painter of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, is the “Virgin And Child Surrounded by Angels” in Berlin, according to the art blog La Tribune de l’Art.)

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