NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 16th-century painting of Christ carrying the cross which was recently restituted to the heirs of a Jewish-Italian businessman is expected to sell for about $3 million at auction this week.
"Christ Carrying the Cross," by Italian painter Girolamo Romanino, was restituted by a U.S. District Court in February to the heirs of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe, a Parisian art collector who died in 1940.
The work is expected to fetch a top price at Christie's Old Masters sale on Tuesday, which could total more than $10 million for some 100 lots on offer.
"'Christ Carrying the Cross' is a masterpiece of the Italian High Renaissance, which could hang in any major museum," said Nicholas Hall, co-chairman of Old Masters and 19th-century art. "A picture of this importance by the artist has not been available on the market for more than a decade."
The work was returned to the Gentili de Giuseppe heirs only weeks ago, capping a more than decade-long process that began with a 1999 Parisian court ruling that nullified the 1941 sale of the businessman's estate.
Gentilli di Giuseppe's heirs have had works returned to them over the years from institutions including the Louvre in Paris and Berlin's Gemaldegalerie, while the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago have also settled with them.
Other highlights of the sale include Sir Peter Paul Rubens' sketch for "The Adoration of the Magi." It is estimated to sell for up to $1 million.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is selling "The Ruins" and "The Old Bridge," two works by 18th century French landscape artist Hubert Robert, which have a price tag of between $800,000 to $1.2 million.
The Met has 10 other paintings in the auction. The Art Institute of Chicago, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art also have works from their collections in the sale.
Sotheby's June 6 sale of just over 100 works is expected to total from $5.2 million to $7.5 million.
The Old Masters sales are smaller than the winter auctions, which this year took in a combined $120 million. Sotheby's upcoming Old Masters sale in London is led by "The Feilitzsch Altarpiece" by Lucas Cranach the Elder, which carries an estimate of up to six million pounds ($9.2 million), equal to the estimated total for its entire auction this week.
Similarly, Christie's Old Masters sale in London will feature John Constable's "The Lock," which is estimated at 20 million to 25 million pounds ($30 million to $40 million).
Sotheby's top lot in New York is a pair of works by Apollonio Domenichini depicting Venice's Piazzetta and Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, estimated to sell for $400,000 to $600,000.
Other highlights include a pair of early German paintings depicting Saint Odilia and Saint Ursula, ascribed to Hans Holbein the Elder and a 1783 landscape by Jakob Phillip Hackert depicting a View of Giornico from the St. Gotthard Pass, Switzerland.
Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Patricia Reaney and Bob Tourtellotte