A Sandro Botticelli Painting Just Sold for $92 Million
Today Sotheby’s New York sold a painting by Sandro Botticelli for a whopping $ 92 million. This final figure, retrieved after just four and a half minutes of bidding between two interested parties, was the culmination of an extensive marketing effort lasting months. Even more significant were the trends the news seemed to be pointing to – and the mysterious backstory of the portrait itself.
Fortunately for the art market, the sale turned out to be a positive sign for 2021. Despite the ongoing pandemic and global economic disruption, auction houses have had continued success at their virtual and IRL auction events. As the first big sale of the year, the success of the Botticelli painting seems to suggest that the art market may be able to march on with an impressive clip.
It was also noteworthy that the work – simply entitled “Portrait of a Young Man with a Roundel” – now holds the record for the highest price paid for a piece by an old master since Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi. Costing a staggering $ 450 million in 2017, this painting is the most-paid ever for a single work of art at auction.
The Portrait of a Young Man seller has been exposed as the basis of the late billionaire Sheldon Solow. The organization made a sizeable profit on the painting, as Solow bought the piece for just $ 1.3 million in the early 1980s. It is possible that they will now use the newly acquired funds to open a private museum in New York City.
This could easily be the end of today’s story and the beginning of a new one. In fact, the history of the painting itself – or the lack of it – is arguably just as fascinating. Despite the well-known status that Sandro Botticelli enjoys today, the artist was actually forgotten hundreds of years after his death, as the New York Times elaborates. (Members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood helped repopulate his works in the 19th century.) However, this prolonged dormancy in relation to Botticelli’s fame explains why most of the works attributed to the Florentine artist were not definitely painted by the masters – including this. In particular, the roundel included in the composition, as well as the youth of the theme, are unusual in relation to the rest of Botticelli’s oeuvre. However, the latter attribute of this painting is perhaps part of its appeal. “It’s a lovely youth of high birth and manners,” art advisor Beverly Schreiber Jacoby commented on the Times. “You don’t have to be a collector of old master paintings to want to buy them.”