A rare Botticelli painting, depicting a portrait of Christ, will go up for auction on January 27 at Sotheby’s in New York, a year after a record $92 million for a painting by the Italian Renaissance master. If the majority of works by Sandro Botticelli, such as the famous “Springtime” or “Birth of Venus”, are exhibited at the Uffizi in Florence, the pieces circulating in private collections are much rarer.
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“We estimate there are only about five that we know of”, explains to AFP Christopher Apostle, head of the old masters department at Sotheby’s. “Christ as a Man of Sorrows” («The man of sorrows»), on display to the public from Saturday at the premises of Sotheby’s in New York, is a portrait on a black background of Jesus, with deep gaze, crown of thorns around his head. This is surrounded by angels and the hands of Christ are bound by ropes and already scarified.
“It was probably painted (by Botticelli) in his late fifties.”, around the 1500s, and “As you get older, you are more introspective, more metaphysical, spiritual. This is what we see deeply in this painting. adds Christopher Apostle. The painting, very well preserved, remained since the middle of the 19th century in the same family of collectors who shared their life between England and Italy, before being sold to its current owners in 1963, at auction, for 10,000 pounds sterling at the time, we explain at Sotheby’s.
“For the time, it is an important price”, underlines Christopher Apostle, while the auction house has set its estimate at more than 40 million dollars. In January 2021, a painting by Botticelli, the “Young man holding a medallion”, had been sold for 92.2 million dollars at auction in New York, still at Sotheby’s. It was an auction record for the Italian painter, whose frescoes adorn the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.