One of the last Sandro Botticelli portraits left in private hands sold at auction for more than $92 million at Sotheby’s New York on Thursday.
The 15th-century painting “Young Man Holding a Roundel” became the most expensive work by the Renaissance artist ever to appear at auction, and the most valuable Old Masters work ever sold at Sotheby’s, the auction house announced.
Believed to have been produced in the late 1470s or early 1480s, Botticelli’s portrait was purchased by its previous owner in 1982 for just £810,000 (a little over $1 million in today’s money). It depicts an unidentified young man holding a small circular painting known as a roundel.
The roundel itself contains a miniature religious portrait by 14th-century Sienese painter, Bartolomeo Bulgarini, that Botticelli incorporated into the work.
Botticelli incorporated the work of an earlier artist into the roundel held by his unidentified subject. Credit: Sotheby’s
Having billed the work as “one the most significant portraits of any period ever to appear at auction,” Sotheby’s initially estimated bids in excess of $80 million. But Apostle also predicted that it could “very well be the next painting to surpass the rarified $100 million threshold.”
Though not as well-known as Botticelli masterpieces like “The Birth of Venus” and “Primavera,” the portrait sold on Thursday “depicts the quintessential Renaissance man,” Apostle said. “It has a very modern feel, largely thanks to its astonishing condition and setting,” he said.
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Although celebrated during his lifetime, Botticelli’s legacy faded after his death in 1510. It was only in the late 19th century that interest in his oeuvre was reignited.
Botticelli rarely produced portraits, focusing most of his career on religious scenes and paintings of classical mythology. Only a dozen or so are known to have survived, with almost all now found in museum collections.
“The Birth of Venus” pictured on display at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence in 2016. Credit: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
“While we didn’t get to see it sell in the room today, it will nonetheless find a new home very soon,” the statement said of the Rembrandt painting.