A Newly Reattributed Michelangelo Drawing Could Fetch $30 Million at Christie’s Paris Next Month

The drawing last sold in 1907 at the Hôtel Drouot auction house as a work of the school of Michelangelo.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, A nude young man (after Masaccio) surrounded by two figures. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd. 2022.

A previously unknown drawing by Michelangelo is going up for sale at Christie’s Paris next month and could fetch a startling €30 million ($32.8 million).

The rare work depicting a nude man standing between two figures dates from early in the Renaissance master’s career. It was previously attributed to the school of the artist, and is now one of a handful of Michelangelo drawings remaining in private hands.

“Everyone at Christie’s involved in this sale is deeply honored by the opportunity to present a work of this magnitude,” Christie’s France chair, Cécile Verdier, said in a statement. “A major discovery in the history of art, the sale of this drawing is also a momentous event for the art market.” 

The work is being offered for a second time after its original sale was scuppered by the French government, which designated the drawing a national treasure and placed an export bar on it for 30 months. The bar, now expired, has been lifted, allowing Christie’s to take it on a whistlestop worldwide tour with stops in Hong Kong and New York before the sale next month.

The drawing last sold in 1907 at the Hôtel Drouot auction house in Paris as a work of the school of Michelangelo. It was first attributed to the master himself in 2019, after it was spotted by Christie’s Old Masters specialist Furio Rinaldi, now curator of drawings and prints at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Rinaldi’s reattribution has since found the support of art historian Paul Joannides, an authority on the artist and author of the complete catalogue of drawings by Michelangelo and his school in the Ashmolean Museum and the Louvre.

Created by the young artist in Florence towards the end of the 15th century, it is among Michelangelo’s earliest surviving nude studies. According to Christie’s, it is likely the earliest surviving one.

The nude figure, sketched in two shades of brown ink, is based on the shivering man depicted in Masaccio’s Baptism of the Neophytes fresco at Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. 

In a statement, Christie’s international head of Old Masters drawings, Stijn Alsteens, likened the rare market moment to the 2001 discovery of a Michelangelo drawing at Castle Howard, which sold for $8.4 million at Sotheby’s. 

“The drawing is one of the best of fewer than 10 works on paper by Michelangelo still in private hands, and will become a touchstone for every discussion of the early part of the artist’s long career,” Alsteens said.

The work will be offered on May 18 during the auction house’s Old Masters and 19th-century art sale in Paris. 

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
  • Access the data behind the headlines with the artnet Price Database.

artnet and our partners use cookies to provide features on our sites and applications to improve your online experience, including for analysis of site usage, traffic measurement, and for advertising and content management. See our Privacy Policy for more information about cookies. By continuing to use our sites and applications, you agree to our use of cookies.

Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In