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Botticelli portrait of Christ expected to fetch $40M at auction

Botticelli portrait of Christ expected to fetch $40M at auction
Sandro Botticelli's late 15th century portrait of Christ -- "The Man of Sorrows" -- is expected to fetch more than $40 million at auction in January. Image courtesy of Sotheby's

Oct. 6 (UPI) -- For the second time in a year, a rare painting by Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli will head to auction in what Sotheby's is describing as a "once-in-a-generation phenomenon."

The portrait of a resurrected Christ titled The Man of Sorrows is expected to fetch upwards of $40 million in the January auction in Sotheby's annual Masters Week in New York City.

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It is one of only three works from Botticelli's late period -- post-1492 -- still held in private hands, the auction house said.

The last Botticelli artwork to go to auction, Young Man Holding a Roundel, set a new record for the artist, fetching $92.2 million in January.

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"To bring to auction a work by Botticelli of this quality is a major event in the world of Old Masters -- but to do so a year after the landmark sale of Botticelli's Young Man Holding a Roundel is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon," said George Wachter, Sotheby's chairman and co-worldwide head of Old Master Paintings.

"This extraordinary painting is a prime example of what makes Botticelli such a captivating artist: a bold visual style coupled with a singularly human approach to portraiture. In taking what is a rather difficult and somber subject matter of Christ following his persecution, Botticelli creates a deeply complex and moving portrait that is truly timeless."

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Sotheby's said Botticelli was inspired by the fanatical preaching of Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola when painting The Man of Sorrows, which depicts Jesus with crucifixion wounds, a crown of thorns and a halo of tiny angels. Savonarola preached against sin and encouraged the burning of artworks considered to be a luxury or idolatrous.

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The auction house described the painting as a "stunningly modern and human portrayal of Christ."

Christopher Apostle, Sotheby's head of Old Master Paintings in New York, said Botticelli's later style was markedly different from his early years.

"The Man of Sorrows is a remarkably realistic portrayal of Christ symbolizing his suffering and death, but with an astounding degree of humanity that is the hallmark of Botticelli's portraiture, and showcases Christ's divinity with a stunning psychological depth," Apostle said. "The painting spotlights Botticelli's intense spirituality that greatly influenced his later period work and life, and presents a unique insight into Botticelli the man and Botticelli the artist."

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The Man of Sorrows will be on public view Thursday through Monday in Hong Kong before going on a global tour to Los Angeles, London, Dubai and New York City.

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