With over 1.3 million people watching, Sandro Botticelli’s Portrait of a young man holding a roundel made history during Sotheby's Masters Week.
T hursday morning’s marquee Master Paintings & Sculpture Part I auction in New York saw a historic sale for a work by the preeminent Florentine master Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli. The painting, an exquisite work of the Italian Renaissance, achieved an astonishing $92.2 million to lead Sotheby’s Masters Week, a series of seven auctions encompassing Old Master paintings, drawings and sculpture spanning more than half a millennium – many of which have not been seen in centuries.
Masters Week continued with the collection of prominent New York collector, art dealer and interior designer Hester Diamond. The highlight, Autumn, an exceptional and powerful marble from famed sculptors Gian Lorenzo and Pietro Bernini, set a record for the Baroque artists in the Fearless: The Collection of Hester Diamond Part I auction.
Master Paintings & Sculpture Part I
B otticelli’s magnificent Portrait of a young man holding a roundel, one of the very finest portraits from the Florentine Master, soared to $92,184,000 total. The price achieved today makes it not only one of the most valuable portraits of any era ever sold, but also one of the most valuable Master paintings ever sold at auction. It was last purchased at auction in 1982 for $1.3 million. “This is a painting that transcends the normal boundaries of the Old Master genre,” said George Wachter, Sotheby's Co-Chairman of Old Master Paintings, Worldwide, “one of the best-preserved, most exquisite, classical Renaissance portraits that anyone could ever wish to own.”
Since Sotheby’s launch of the innovative, distanced livestream sale format last June, this is the second artwork to realize over $80 million at auction (this record was first set by the sale of Francis Bacon’s Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus, which sold for $84.6 million in June 2020).
Sotheby’s presents Masters Week 2021 in partnership with Bulgari. Master department specialists and Sotheby’s auctioneer Oliver Barker donned fine jewels and watches by Bulgari for the Thursday morning livestream auction. Included were the Platinum, Ruby and Diamond ‘Rosso Caravaggio’ Necklace (worn by Senior Vice President Margaret H Schwartz) the Octo Finissimo Automatic watch (worn by auctioneer Oliver Barker), the B.zero1 bracelet (worn by specialist Calvine Harvey) and a matching set of B.zero1 earrings and ring (worn by specialist Elisabeth Lobkowicz).
The second highest-selling artwork was The descent from the cross, a powerful and intensely moving painting created around 1480 by Hugo Van der Goes. Rediscovered in 1950, the work is an emblem of devotional piety and ranks among the most important examples of Early Netherlandish art to appear at auction in the modern era.
Further highlights from the marquee morning sale included new auction records for a number of preeminent masters. Florentine artist Lucca della Robbia’s Relief of the Madonna and child, circa 1450 sold for $2,016,500, surpassing the pre-sale high estimate of $1 million. Two Dutch Golden Age artists, Willem van Aelst and Gerard Sehgers, both achieved new records: Aelst’s Still life with grapes in a basket, peaches on a silver dish, medlars, two butterflies, a fly and a snail, all on a red velvet cloth over a partially draped ledge achieved $1,230,000 and Sehgers’s respledent Repentant Mary Magdalene, last sold at auction in 1817, brought $746,000. Additional records were realized for the Master of Marradi ($1,024,300) and Frans Pourbus the Elder ($478,800).
New Artist Records Set
Fearless: The Collection of Hester Diamond Part I
D ynamic, independent and incomparable, Hester Diamond amassed a preeminent collection of both Modernist works and Old Master paintings and sculptures that she displayed in her New York apartment. “I’ve never been interested in having a static collection,” Diamond said. “We just did it in the most irrational way – we loved something, we bought it, and that's what I've done all my life.”
Hester Diamond: The Life of a Fearless and Visionary Collector
A prolific and passionate collector with a distinct vision, Diamond traveled extensively in search of quality artwork – acquiring masterpieces by art historical titans such as Bernini and Dosso Dossi as well as from contemporary artists like Barry X Ball and Bill Viola. Fearless: The Collection of Hester Diamond Part I auction earned $26.8 million in total.
The star of Diamond’s collection, Autumn by Pietro Bernini and Gian Lorenzo, achieved $8.9 million, an auction record for the artists . The result is one of the highest prices ever realized for an Old Master sculpture at auction. “Bernini is synonymous with the charged, emotional style of the Baroque,” says Margaret Schwartz, Co-Worldwide Head of European Sculpture and Works of Art, “and Autumn is a remarkable early work by the teenage Gian Lorenzo.” The exceptional marble figure showcases the young sculptor’s bravura and the moment when Gian Lorenzo began to eclipse his father in skill and conception. Bernini is remembered as the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo, and as one of the supreme protagonists in the history of Western art.
Alongside Bernini, The Plague at Pergamea; The Sicilian Games earned an artist record for Dosso Dossi, selling for $6.2 million. The artist painted the monumental canvases as a part of his famed Aeneas Frieze. Created for the Duke Alfonso I d’Este, this frieze was hung above large mythological masterpieces by Titian and Bellini in the Duke’s opulent amerino d’alabastro in Ferrara.
The auction established 16 additional artist records, including Pieter Coecke van Aelst’s A triptych: The Nativity, The Adoration of the Magi, The Presentation in the Temple, selling for $3.1 million. The impressive triptych was the centerpiece of a monographic exhibition on the artist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.