Portrait of Botticelli valued at $80 million – will there be a new record?

Added 2020-10-23 in by Łukasz Kuca

Christopher Apostole – the head of Old Masters Paintings department at Sotheby’s – called it “one of the most significant portraits, of any period, ever to appear at auction”. Will Botticelli’s piece, which has been recently brought to Sotheby’s New York office, set a record for this renaissance artist and at the same time place itself among the most expensive works of Old Masters?

Young Man Holding a Roundel is supposed to be the highlight of Old Masters Week, auction organised at Sotheby’s in January 2021 in New York. The portrait is expected to reach the price of $80 million – amount nearly eight times higher than Botticelli’s Madonna Rockeffeler, painting which was sold for $10.4 million on Christie’s auction in 2013.

For nearly 50 years the portrait has been visiting the most prestige galleries in the world. It could be seen for example in the National Gallery in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Current owner Sheldon Solow – a founder of the Solow Art and Architecture Foundation – bought the painting in 1982 for $1.3 million. Now Solow has hope to sell it for an amount nearly 61 times higher.

Botticelli’s portrait was first recorded in the 1930s. At that time the piece was in a collection of Lord Newborough at Caernarfon in Wales. It is believed that the painting previously belonged to Sir Thomas Wynn (1736-1807) – the first Lord Newborough – who acquired it during his stay in Tuscany. In the mid 1930s the portrait was in hands of London art dealer and a couple years later was passed to a private collector. Just 40 years later this piece was bought by American state developer and billionaire Sheldon Solow.

Young Man Holding a Roundel is one of the few examples of Botticelli’s portrait painting. This work is comparable with Portrait of a Young Man with a Medal (the medal is portraying Cosimo the Elder), dated 1470s, which is at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
The identity of a portraited man is not yet confirmed. However, the small roundel has been recognized as an original work attributed to Bartolomeo Bulgarini – painter active during the Trecento in Siena.

The portrait was made during the most significant time in Botticelli’s career. The last 30 years of 15th century was the time, when the artist had his own workshop, where he was working for nobel families of Florence – mainly members of the Medici family. That is the same time when some of the greatest works of Botticelli were made, for example Primavera and The Birth of Venus.

The value of the painting was established by means of objective qualities, a subjective analysis and external factors (valuation of Botticelli’s other works). Even though the suggested amount is much higher than any price of Botticelli’s work, Christopher Apostole is confident about his prognosis. If his prediction is confirmed, Young Man Holding a Roundel will become one of the most expensive portraits in the world, alongside works of Vincent van Gogh and Gustav Klimt.