The work, a masterpiece attributed to the 13th-century Italian painter Cimabue that was discovered earlier this year, sold for 24 million euros (£20.7 million).
Dominique Le Coent of Acteon Auction House, who sold the work to an anonymous buyer near Chantilly, north of Paris, said the sale represented a "world record for a primitive, or a pre-1500 work".
Mr Le Coent said: "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."
An auctioneer spotted the painting in June while inspecting a woman's house in Compiegne in northern France and suggested she bring it to experts for an evaluation.
It hung on a wall between the kitchen and dining room and its owner had considered it of little importance.
The woman will now receive "the majority" of the sale money, the auction house said.
The expected sale price had been four million to six million euros (£3.4 million to £5.1 million).
Mr 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 painting, titled Christ Mocked, measures about 10in by 8in (24cm by 20cm).
Art experts say it is probably part of a larger diptych that Cimabue painted in around 1280, of which two other panels are displayed at the Frick Collection in New York and the National Gallery in London.
The painting's discovery has sent ripples of excitement through the art world.
Cimabue, who taught Italian master Giotto, is widely considered the forefather of the Italian Renaissance.
He broke from the Byzantine style popular in the Middle Ages and began to incorporate elements of movement and perspective that came to characterise Western painting.
Specialists at the Turquin gallery in Paris initially examined the painting and concluded with "certitude" that it bore the hallmarks of Cimabue.
Stephane Pinta, an art specialist with the Turquin, pointed to likenesses in facial expressions and buildings, as well as the painter's techniques for conveying light and distance.