Art Market

A Botticelli portrait is expected to fetch more than $80 million at Sotheby’s.

Justin Kamp
Sep 24, 2020 9:53PM, via Sotheby’s

Sandro Botticelli, Young Man Holding a Roundel, ca. late 1470s–early 1480s. Est. in excess of $80 million. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

A 15th-century portrait by Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli will go on offer at Sotheby’s Masters Week sale in New York, scheduled to take place in January of 2021. Young Man Holding a Roundel (ca. late 1470s–early 1480s) is expected to sell in excess of $80 million. The work is notable for being one of the last remaining major Renaissance portraits in private hands, though it has had plenty of public exposure: Over the past 50 years it has been on view at museums including the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

George Wachter, Sotheby’s co-chairman of Old Master paintings, worldwide, said in a statement:

Portraits are among the most powerful images ever created; they resonate throughout the centuries. Our Young Man is now 550 years old, yet he looks like he could have strolled into our galleries this morning—he is a true beauty for the ages. This is a painting that transcends the normal boundaries of the Old Master genre, and one of the best-preserved, most exquisite, classical Renaissance portraits that anyone could ever wish to own.

Sandro Botticelli, Young Man Holding a Roundel, ca. late 1470s–early 1480s. Est. in excess of $80 million. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

In addition to its provenance and estimated price, the portrait is notable for its inclusion of a work by another artist. The titular roundel, which was inserted into the panel that Botticelli painted on, is an original work by 14th-century painter Bartolommeo Bulgarini. Its inclusion in the portrait is something of a mystery, though it is thought to in some way reference the identity of the unknown sitter, who was possibly a member of the Florentine noble family the Medicis.

If Young Man achieves its estimate, it could become the most expensive Old Master work ever sold at Sotheby’s, topping Peter Paul Rubens’s Massacre of the Innocents (1612), which sold for £49.5 million ($76.6 million) in 2002. It would also make the Botticelli the second most expensive Old Master lot ever sold at auction, trailing only Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500), which sold for $450.3 million at Christie’s in 2017.

Last year, a painting said at the time to be the last Botticelli portrait in private hands, was offered at the Frieze Masters fair by London gallery Trinity Fine Art, with an asking price of $30 million or more. The auction record for a Botticelli remains the so-called “Rockefeller Madonna” (or Madonna and Child with Young Saint John the Baptist), which sold for $10.4 million at Christie’s in 2013.

Further Reading: How Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” Challenged Depictions of the Nude in Art

Further Reading: Botticelli’s Gruesome Paintings Reveal a Little-Known Side to His Work

Justin Kamp
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