Botticelli painting fetches record $92m at auction

A portrait by Sandro Botticelli has sold for $92m (£67m) at auction, breaking a new record for the Italian renaissance painter.

Young Man Holding a Roundel is believed to have been painted in the 1470s or 1480s and is considered one of Botticelli’s finest portraits.

It sold on Thursday at a Sotheby’s auction in New York.

The sale marks the first major indicator of the state of the art market this year.

Prior to its sale, questions hung over the willingness of global art collectors to pay nine-figure sums for trophy works amid the coronavirus pandemic and market volatility.

The successful sale of the Botticelli piece could help boost prices for other such paintings at a time when many art collectors are chasing newer works from post-war and contemporary artists.


Sotheby’s senior vice president Christopher Apostle described Young Man Holding a Roundel as a “masterpiece” ahead of the auction.

“This Botticelli is so much more spectacular in every way than anything we’ve seen coming to the market,” he told the AFP news agency.

“This image symbolises and exemplifies the Renaissance in Florence. We haven’t seen anything like it in my lifetime,” he added.

The painting shows a man in his late teenage years with long golden hair sitting holding a disc – the roundel – which features a bearded saint with his right hand raised.

The roundel is an original 14th Century artwork attributed to Sienese painter Bartolommeo Bulgarini.

Sotheby’s displayed the painting around the world to collectors and potential bidders in advance of the auction in an effort to increase demand.

“The young man in the painting has done more travel during Covid than probably anybody we know,” joked Charles Stewart, CEO of Sotheby’s.

It was displayed in Los Angeles, London and Dubai and accompanied by a catalogue with scholarly essays and technical analysis.

The painting sold for $80m (£58.2), but the final price will be $92.2m (£67.1m) when fees and commissions are added.

The auction was live streamed from New York and lasted less than five minutes with only two competitors for the painting, according to The New York Times.

The selling price establishes the work as one of the most significant portraits to have ever sold at auction.

The previous record for a Botticelli was set in 2013 when Madonna and Child with Young Saint John the Baptist sold for $10.4m (£7.6m).

Lasting impact

Other paintings which have sold for prices in this range include Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, which sold for $87.9m (£64m) in 2006 and Vincent Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr Gachet, which fetched $82.5m (£60m) 1990.

It is understood Young Man Holding a Roundel has been handed down through several generations of an aristocratic family in Wales for about 200 years.

Art scholars were unaware of the painting’s existence until it first appeared on the market in the early 20th Century.

It has spent much of the last 40 years on public display since its current owner acquired it in 1982 for just £810,000.

The painting has appeared at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery in London and elsewhere.

Botticelli, who lived from the 1440s to 1510, is one of the most celebrated painters of the early Renaissance period, but only about a dozen examples of his work survive today.

Botticelli was forgotten for centuries after his death, but his work was rediscovered in the 19th Century, and the artist has since become one of the biggest names in art history.

His best-known works are The Birth of Venus and Primavera.

In 2016, an exhibition at London’s V&A Museum, Botticelli Reimagined, explored the artist’s enduring impact, particularly on today’s pop culture.

The exhibition included a 2009 recreation of The Birth of Venus by photographer David LaChapelle, as well as interpretations of the same painting by Andy Warhol.

The front cover of Lady Gaga’s 2013 album Artpop also incorporated elements of the The Birth of Venus, and the painting inspired one of the lead singles from the album, Venus.

Source: BBC

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