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.
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.
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