Rare Raphael drawing raises record $48 million
By Mike Collett-White
LONDON (Reuters) - One of the greatest drawings by Renaissance master Raphael still in private hands sold for 29.7 million pounds ($47.9 million) on Wednesday, an auction record for the artist in sterling terms and double pre-sale expectations.
Sotheby's auctioneers had high hopes for the 16th century "Head of an Apostle", a study for Raphael's last painting "Transfiguration" which is on display at the Vatican Museum in Rome.
When the artist died in 1520, his body was laid out in state in his studio with the Transfiguration hanging at his head.
Measuring roughly 15 inches by 11 inches, the picture drawn in black chalk went on a mini-world tour prior to the London auction in a bid to drum up interest from Asia as well as Europe and North America.
"If you are lucky, at some point in your career a work like this comes along," said Gregory Rubinstein, head of old master drawings at Sotheby's.
"A number of the world's greatest collectors stepped up tonight in recognition of the genius of Raphael and the extraordinary beauty of this drawing with its exceptional provenance."
According to Sotheby's, only two other Raphael drawings of the same caliber have been auctioned in the last 50 years - in 2009, Raphael's black chalk "Head of a Muse" sold for 29.2 million pounds at Christie's in London.
In dollar terms, that picture narrowly trumped Head of an Apostle due to fluctuating exchange rates, but since both were sold in pounds in London, Sotheby's is claiming the crown. Continued...