A portrait by Sandro Botticelli of a rich and handsome young man, described as one of the greatest Renaissance paintings remaining in private hands, will be auctioned with an estimate of over $ 80 million ($ 63 million pound sterling).
Sotheby’s said it was the highest estimate for an old masterpiece he had ever made, reflecting its importance and rarity.
“Our ‘young man’ is 550 years old, but it looks like he could have walked through our galleries this morning,” said George Wachter, Sotheby’s co-chair for antique paintings. “He is a real beauty for the ages.”
The auction house estimates it to be one of the most significant portraits ever sold, with paintings such as Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, which sold for $ 87.9 million in 2006 and Van Gogh’s Portrait of Doctor Gachet, which sold for $ 82.5 million. in 1990, then a world record.
Most of Botticelli’s works can be found in the world’s largest museums, and only a dozen are portraits. Sotheby’s said his portrait, which was to be sold in New York in January, was as important as the Portrait of a Man with a Medal by Cosimo il Vecchio de ‘Medici in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Portrait of Giuliano de ‘Medici at the National Gallery. of Art in Washington DC.
The portrait, Young Man Holding a Cockade, is recorded as part of the Lord Newborough collection at Caernarfon, Wales in the 1930s. It is believed to have been purchased by his ancestor Sir Thomas Wynn, the first Lord Newborough , while living in Tuscany.
It was apparently hung in an anteroom unknown to the outside world, its importance unrecognized.
It was purchased by a dealer who sold it to a private collector, whose heirs auctioned it off to the current owner in 1982 for £ 810,000.
Over the past 50 years, he has had extended loan periods at the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.
Experts said the young man’s face embodied Renaissance ideals of beauty, while his long wavy, center parted hair would have lived up to the hype.
His tunic looks modest but its dark mauve color would have been expensive to make and suggests he was wealthy and upper class.
The number of Botticelli’s paintings around the world would have been higher if the artist had not fallen under the spell of religious fanatic Girolamo Savonarola. The artist burned several of his paintings in the “Bonfire of Vanities” in 1497 but luckily not The Birth of Venus and Primavera, two of the most famous and popular paintings in the world.
The identity of the young man is not known although the cockade – or medallion – which he holds representing a saint probably contains clues as yet not coded.
The cockade is particularly interesting and unusual in that it is an original 14th-century work attributed to the Sienese painter Bartolomeo Bulgarini, which has been carefully inserted into the panel on which Botticelli painted his portrait.
One suggestion was that Botticelli deliberately contrasted the young man’s beautiful vitality with the aging saint’s hoarseness.
Over the years, it has been suggested that the young man could be Giovanni de ‘Medici, Lorenzo’s brother who was one of Botticelli’s most important patrons.
Sotheby’s said the portrait embodied the Florentine Renaissance, but was also “timelessly modern” with its vivid colors and simplicity.
“It’s a painting that transcends the normal boundaries of the old master genre,” Wachter said. It was “one of the best preserved and most exquisite Renaissance classical portraits that anyone could wish to own.”
Christopher Apostle, head of the Old Masters department at the New York auction house, said no other painter evokes the golden age of the Florentine Renaissance more powerfully than Botticelli.
“His nymphs, goddesses, madonnas and saints populate our imaginations as representatives of the rebirth of science, art and literature in a city that laid the foundations of the modern world.
“It is in his portraits, however, that Botticelli most clearly opens a window to the world of Renaissance Florence – never more so than in Young Man Holding a Cockade, a painting which sums up the intellectual, courteous and humanistic virtues that define Italian. Renaissance. “