Restituted Botticelli up for Auction in Cologne

Sandro Botticelii, Madonna With Child, John the Baptist and Angel, ca. 1475 Photo: van Ham Kunstauktionen

An extremely rare Madonna tondo by the renowned Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) and his studio is up for auction at van Ham, Cologne, Art Magazin reported.

The vivid, exceptionally well-preserved painting was consigned by a collector from the Rhine region. It depicts the virgin Mary and the young Christ flanked by John the Baptist and an angel. According to van Ham’s catalogue, Gaudenz Freuler, an expert on Italian Renaissance painting at the University of Zurich, said that “the rediscovery of the Renaissance tondo gives us a fascinating insight into the activity of the successful Florentine Renaissance studio of Sandro Botticelli.” He wagers that “the inspiration of the theme and the similarity of the figure of the angel on the right of the canvas, to the Madonna del Magni-Ficat of [the] Uffizi painted in 1480, indicates the artwork was painted by Botticelli himself.”

Aside from the painting’s art historical significance, it boasts a storied provenance. The painting was formerly part of the extensive Jewish-owned Nardus collection which along with 150 other artworks was labeled as “enemy property” by the Nazis in 1940, and was eventually confiscated in 1942. In 1943 the painting was bought at auction by the family of the consignee.

After three years of extensive research by van Ham, restitution experts identified the painting as an example of Nazi-looted art. The consignee, who had inherited the artwork, was unaware of the piece’s provenance and after being informed of its origin agreed to return it to its rightful owners. An agreement between all parties was reached to allow the auctioning of the tondo to go ahead.

The Botticelli painting, estimated to fetch between €250,000-300,000 is due to hit the auction block at van Ham, Cologne on November 14.

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