Botticelli painting sells for $92M shattering artist's previous record

"Young Man Holding a Roundel" is one of only three Sandro Botticelli paintings in private hands. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
"Young Man Holding a Roundel" is one of only three Sandro Botticelli paintings in private hands. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- A rare portrait by Italian painter Sandro Botticelli sold for a record $92.2 million Thursday, about nine times the previous high price for the Old Master, Sotheby's said.

The 1480-era painting -- Young Man Holding a Roundel -- came up for sale as part of Sotheby's New York auction of Old Master artworks.


"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. Today's result is a fitting tribute, both to the painting itself and all that it represents," said Christopher Apostle, the head of Sotheby's Old Masters painting department in New York.

Botticelli was mostly known for his large, mythological paintings, including The Birth of Venus and Primavera, both of which are housed at the Uffizi gallery in Florence, Italy. He also created dozens of religious paintings.

Secular portraits, though, were somewhat rare for the Italian Renaissance master. It's even rarer that one was in private hands and came up for auction. Sotheby's said the painting is one of only three Botticelli portraits held by a private owner.

The auction house didn't reveal the name of the buyer, describing them only as an "Asian collector." Institutional buyers also showed interest in the painting, and there were bids coming in from both sides of the Atlantic.


Sotheby's said Young Man Holding a Roundel has been in the hands of the same owner since 1982, though the owner has loaned it out for display at museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, London's National Gallery and the Staled Museum in Frankfurt, Germany.

The painting depicts a young man from the waist up holding a medallion depicting a saint. Historians believe it was painted in 1480 and features the likeness of a member of the Medici family.

"This is a painting that transcends the normal boundaries of the Old Master genre, one of the best-preserved, most exquisite, classical Renaissance portraits that anyone could ever wish to own," said George Wachter, Sotheby's co-chairman of Old Master paintings.

The previous high auction price for a Botticelli painting was $10.4 million, set in 2014 in the sale of Rockefeller Madonna.

Another marquee item in the still-in-session Old Masters auction was a painting titled Abraham and the Angels by Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn. The small, 1646 painting was expected to fetch between $20 million and $30 million.

The auction also included artworks by Albrecht Durer, Gian Lorenzo, Pietro Bernini, Luca della Robbia, Jacopo Tintoretto and Rachel Ruysch.


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