Arts & Entertainment

Auction of major Botticelli portrait expected to fetch record sum

By Nora Quintanilla

New York, Sep 24 (efe-epa).- The subject has porcelain skin and an elegant upright pose, but the most attractive feature of the portrait is the stamp of Early Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli’s genius in every detail.

“Young Man Holding a Roundel,” a painting long admired by art lovers worldwide and one of the few known remaining portraits by the 15th-century Italian master, is to go under the hammer early next year in New York and is expected to fetch a record auction price for a Botticelli work of more than $80 million.

“There’s a small number of portraits (by Botticelli) that have survived to this day,” Christopher Apostle, senior vice president and head of the Old Master Paintings department at Sotheby’s New York, told Efe.

“So a major portrait like this is a really rare occurrence. To have a picture of this kind of condition and this visual impact that says so much about the Renaissance, so much about Florence at this moment, is a very rare occurrence,” the expert said.

Apostle noted that the portrait was last put up for auction in 1982, when a private collector acquired it for 810,000 pounds (close to $1 million at the current exchange rate). Since then, it has been loaned out to some of the world’s leading art museums, including the National Gallery in London and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The portrait is comparable to two others by Botticelli that also date to between the late 1470s and early 1480s – “Portrait of a Man with the Medal of Cosimo de’ Medici the Elder” at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery and “Giuliano de’ Medici” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

According to Apostle, the works of Botticelli – best known for the masterpieces “Primavera” and “The Birth of Venus” – “exemplify a very specific moment in time for world culture, which is that moment in Florence where there’s a huge explosion of learning, art, culture, literature, music, everything, all at the same time, that we call the Renaissance.”

But what makes “Young Man Holding a Roundel” unique is the small round picture, or medallion, of a saint giving a blessing that the subject holds in his hand.

That roundel is an original 14th-century work attributed to Italian painter Bartolomeo Bulgarini and, in Botticelli’s portrait, is practically a second work of art on top of the main painting.

“The significance of this striking visual device remains to be decoded, but must relate in some way to the identity of the handsome young nobleman who shows it off so proudly,” Sotheby’s said in an article Thursday on its website in which it describes the painting as “one of the most significant portraits, of any period, ever to appear at auction.”

Apostle, for his part, said the auction offers a unique chance for collectors.

“It’s maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity for a Botticelli portrait of this style, of this condition, of this beauty,” he said. “So I think that’s something that in terms of the market, people will really react to.” EFE-EPA


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