Rare Renaissance Painting Expected To Fetch More Than $80 Million At Auction

(Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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A rare painting by Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli could fetch over $80 million when it goes to auction in New York in January, a record auction price for the artist, numerous sources reported. 

“Young Man Holding a Roundel” is one of the last known portraits by the 15th century painter that is still privately owned according to Sotheby’s, the art auctioneer that says the painting will “establish art market history as one of the most significant portraits” to ever appear at auction

An art handler from Sothebys arranges Botticellis “Young Man Holding a Roundel” during a press preview at Sothebys on September 23, 2020.) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

The painting features a portrait of a nobleman, and is one of 12 known portraits by Botticelli, making the auction an “elite type of situation,” Christopher Apostle, who has handled Old Masters at the auction house for more than three decades, said according to the LA Times.

It is believed to have been executed in the late 1470s, and represents two artworks — the painting of the aristocratic sitter, painted by Botticelli, and a roundel attributed to the Sienese painter Bartolommeo Bulgarini. Some believe the sitter is associated with the ruling House of Medici or a powerful Florentine family. 

“There’s a rectitude to this picture and a lack of arrogance while still being very confident that I think exemplifies that attitude that these republicans in Florence felt about themselves,” he says. “Also, by presenting this medallion, he’s just making sure we’re aware he’s a cultivated person.”

“Just the sheer beauty of this has been a joy,” he said. “I can’t think of a Botticelli like this that’s been on the open international market.”

Botticelli’s most commonly known works include masterpieces like “The Birth of Venus” and “Primavera,” both of which are held at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the painter’s birthplace.

A journalist views Sandro Botticelli’s “Primavera” (Spring) at the Uffizi Gallery Museum in Florence on June 2, 2020 (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)

Director of the Uffizi Gallery Museum, Germany’s Eike Schmidt poses before Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” at the Uffizi Gallery Museum in Florence on June 2, 2020. (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)

The painting was bought by the current owner for £810,000 in 1982, or slightly more than $1 million at today’s exchange rate. The auction believes that it could fetch a dizzying $100 million at auction in 2021, a level that hasn’t been reached since Claude Monet’s “Meules” sold for $110 million at Sotheby’s in 2019, according to the LA Times.

Botticelli’s work rarely appears on the market, but when the rare opportunity arises that they do, they sell for significant sums. The artist’s “Madonna and Child with Young Saint John the Baptist” sold for $10.4 million in 2013 at Christie’s in New York, according to CNN

“This painting is not just the greatest Botticelli in private hands but is to be considered amongst the finest Renaissance paintings in private ownership,” Apostle said, adding: “There will likely not be an opportunity to acquire a Renaissance painting of such importance and beauty for many years, if at all.” (RELATED: Two Of The World’s Most Famous Artists Wrote Letter About Brothels In 1888 And It Sold At Auction For $237,000)

Despite challenges caused by the pandemic that has resulted in auction houses furloughing staff and cancelling sales, Apostle says the art market has been resilient. “Both Sotheby’s and the consignor (the painting’s seller) believe that the art market has showed tremendous resilience in the past few months, and there continues to be very strong competition for works of the highest rarity and quality,” according to CNN. 

The painting has spent extended periods on loan at the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. over the last 50 years, according to the AP