NEW YORK – Italian artist Sandro Botticelli’s Renaissance masterpiece portrait, Young Man Holding a Roundel, has sold at Sotheby’s New York for a record $92.2 million.
The 15th-century painting, billed as “one the most significant portraits of any period ever to appear at auction,” became the most expensive work by the Renaissance artist and the most valuable Old Masters work ever sold at Sotheby’s, the auction house announced. More than 1.3 million people watched the painting make history at the sale, which was part of Sotheby’s Masters Week.
It was also the second work to top the $80-million mark since Sotheby’s began live-streaming its auctions during the pandemic, according to a press statement. The first was Francis Bacon’s Oresteia of Aeschylus, which sold for $84.5 million last June.
“This is not only an exceptional painting, it is also the epitome of beauty, and of a moment when so much of our Western civilization began. (The) result is a fitting tribute, both to the painting itself and all that it represents,” said Christopher Apostle, head of Sotheby’s Old Masters Painting Department, New York.
Believed to have been produced in the late 1470s or early 1480s, Botticelli’s portrait was purchased by its previous owner in 1982 for just a little over $1 million in today’s money. It depicts an unidentified young man holding a small circular painting known as a roundel. The roundel itself contains a miniature religious portrait by 14th-century Sienese painter, Bartolomeo Bulgarini, that Botticelli incorporated into the work.
Just one of three portraits left in private hands by this leading artist of the Italian Renaissance, known to many for his famous Primavera and The Birth of Venus, the painting had attracted presale interest from institutional and private buyers alike. The price achieved on January 28 makes it not only one of the most valuable portraits of any era ever sold, but also the second most valuable Old Master painting ever sold at auction – second only to Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold for an astounding $450.3 million at Christie’s in 2017.
The previous auction record for Botticelli was $10.4 million for the Rockefeller Madonna: Madonna and Child with Young St. John the Baptist, which sold at Christie’s New York in 2013.