A 550-year-old Renaissance portrait done by Sandro Botticelli in the 14th century Italy is to be auctioned for $80 million. The scheduled auction is to be conducted by Sotheby, and art connoisseurs said the ancient portrait could fetch more than the $80 million marks set for it. The portrait is called “Young Man Holding a Roundel” and is one of the rarest portraits ever painted by an old master and remaining in private collections.
Co-chairman of old master paintings at Sotheby, George Wachter, said the portrait of a young man holding another portrait of what appeared to be a saint is so real and life-like that it seems “he could have strolled into our galleries this morning”. He said it is a classic work of art that any government museum would be happy to lay their hands upon.
According to Sotheby, the portrait of the Young Man Holding a Roundel stands tall with other classics such as Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II” which fetched $87.9 million in 2006, and Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Doctor Gachet” which fetched $82.5 million in 1990. The auction house also compares the portrait with that of “Portrait of a Man With a Medal of Cosimo il Vecchio de’ Medici” in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and “Portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.
As history goes, the portrait was owned by Sir Thomas Wynn who happened to be the first Lord Newborough of Caernarfon in Wales during his residence in Tuscany, and then handed down the line to another Lord Newborough in the 1930s. An art dealer purchased it and later sold it to a private collector who kept it for many decades; but at the death of the collector, his children auctioned it off for £810,000 to the present owner.
Within the past five decades, the Botticelli’s portrait had been showcased in 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.
“It is in his portraits, however, that Botticelli most clearly opens a window on to the world of Renaissance Florence – never more so than in Young Man Holding a Roundel, a painting that encapsulates the intellectual, courtly and humanistic virtues that define the Italian Renaissance,” said Christopher Apostle, Sotheby’s head of old masters department in New York.