A painting by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli was sold Thursday for $ 92.2 million in a sale organized by Sotheby’s, a peak for almost two years for a work of art at auction.
At the end of a short back and forth between two collectors, a buyer giving his orders in London won with a last offer at 80 million dollars, a price to which are added fees and commissions.
The price is a high since May 2019 and the 110 million reached by Grinding wheels by Claude Monet, at Sotheby’s in New York. It represents about nine times the old record for a painting by the Florentine master, set in 2013 by The Virgin and Child with the young Saint John the Baptist, sold for $ 10.4 million.
The Young man holding a medallion represents a young ephebe with long hair. His identity is not known, but specialists believe he could be someone close to the powerful Florentine family of Medici.
“This Botticelli is so much more impressive than anything we have seen happen on the market” emanating from this painter, had argued Christopher Apostle, head of the old masters department at Sotheby’s in New York, before the sale.
In the possession of New York real estate mogul Sheldon Solow, who bought it 810,000 pounds in 1982 (about $ 1.3 million), it was nevertheless exhibited in many museums and for long periods. Sheldon Solow passed away in mid-November.
Sheldon Solow’s family had at one time considered setting up a museum in New York City dedicated to the collection of the real estate developer, of which the young man with the locket would have been the main attraction, before giving up.
Compare to Basquiat or Picasso
“When you look at a painting like this, which is so exceptional, you have to compare it to other masterpieces, paintings by Picasso, Bacon or Basquiat”, which have broken records in recent years. years, had argued Christopher Apostle.
Before this sale only Leonardo da Vinci, with the 450 million dollars of his Salvator Mundi, had never touched the symbolic threshold of 100 million dollars among the old masters.
Although more than 500 years old, Botticelli’s painting is in an exceptional state of preservation.
Undated, it is believed to have been made between the late 1470s and early 1480s by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), born Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi.
“This image symbolizes the Renaissance in Florence”, had explained Christopher Apostle, this moment “when everything fundamentally changed for Western thought, art and literature”.
“When you have a masterpiece that presents itself, people wake up, (…) whatever the period”, even in the midst of economic uncertainty, said Christopher Apostle.
Despite the pandemic, the art market remained strong last year, notably with a triptych by Francis Bacon auctioned off 84.6 million in June.
Constrained by health restrictions, which in particular have deprived New York of public sales for ten months, the major auction houses have fallen back overwhelmingly to online sales and have maintained a significant volume of activity.
A sign of changing times, Sotheby’s opened the sale at 10 a.m. local (3 p.m. GMT), rather than in the evening, unheard of for a sale of this importance. European and even Asian collectors were thus able to follow the auctions at a reasonable time.
Another event of these auctions dedicated to the old masters, a painting by the Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn, Abraham and the angels, was withdrawn from sale at the last minute.
Estimated at between $ 20 million and $ 30 million, it seemed positioned to break a Rembrandt auction record of $ 33.2 million in 2009. “Although we didn’t see him in the room today , it will not find a new home anytime soon, ”Sotheby’s said.