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LONDON (Reuters) - A preparatory drawing by Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo Buonarroti for his lost commission "The Battle of Cascina" is expected to fetch 3-5 million pounds ($5-8 million) at auction on July 5.
According to Christie's, which will auction the work in London, the male nude is dated around 1504, shortly after Michelangelo began work on a major commission to commemorate Florentine civic virtue.
The Florentine government commissioned Michelangelo and fellow great Leonardo Da Vinci to produce rival battle frescos for a hall in the civic palace.
Neither Leonardo's "Battle of Anghiari" nor Michelangelo's "Battle of Cascina" was completed and both were lost, although they survived partially through engravings and sketches.
"This drawing offers an exceptionally rare, direct link to one of the greatest Western masterpieces that never was," Benjamin Peronnet, international head of old master and 19th century drawings at Christie's, said on Tuesday.
Michelangelo's cartoon was broken up and dispersed among admirers within only a few years of its execution and is now only known through copies.
The drawing on offer is one of 24 sheets from the artist's hand which record his vision for The Battle of Cascina and it is the only study for the fresco in private hands, Christie's said.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; editing by Patricia Reaney