7 oct 2021

Will Botticelli break a new auction record?

Unearthed from a private collection, a new painting by Sandro Botticelli, called The Man of Sorrows, will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York in January 2022. While last year, a painting by the Italian Renaissance master was sold for $92.2 million, everything points to a new exceptional record with an initial estimate of $40 million.

Five centuries after his death, the illustrious Florentine master Sandro Botticelli still shakes the art world. An undisputed maestro of painting, this figurehead of the Italian Renaissance created masterpieces exhibited in museums around the world such as  SpringTime or The Birth of Venus. In January 2021, The Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Medallion, whose authorship was disputed,  was sold at Sotheby’s for the exceptional sum of $92.2 million. This year, it is another work by the artist, later and entitled The Man of Sorrows, which will be unearthed again by Sotheby’s in New York during its annual sale, Masters Week. Passed down from generation to generation, this painting by the Florentine belonged to a British opera singer before being sold in 1963 by her granddaughter for $28. Since then, it has remained in a very confidential private collection and has only been exhibited once, in 2010 in Frankfurt.


If The Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Medallion

marked a sales record for a painting by Sandro Botticelli, The Man of Sorrows could well exceed all expectations as the price of the Italian masters continues to climb. Whereas La Madone to the Child, painted by the painter in 1467, had been sold in 2013 by Sotheby’s for the sum of $8.6 million, the Artist’s Works Award can be counted now in the tens of millions – without equalling that of Leonardo da Vinci,  one of whose paintings, the famous Salvador Mundi, became the most expensive work in the world in 2017 when it was sold for $400 million. Today, Sotheby’s already estimates Botticelli’s new painting at $40 million, an amount that could well be exceeded by bidders.


Directed by Sandro Botticelli at the very end of the fifteenth century, shortly before his death, The Man of Sorrows was conceived during a civil war that ravaged Florence and plunged it into a disastrous period for four years. In 1494, an army, commanded by the fanatic Jerome Savonarola, expelled the Medici from the city while the royal family, admittedly Machiavellian, had held the city for several centuries. Chasing these princes with dissolute morals, the charismatic priest imposed a rigorist conception of Christianity, wishing to make Florence a new Jerusalem. Arrested, the Italian reformer died by hanging and burned in 1498 but his harsh teachings considerably influenced the painter’s work… 


In contrast to Botticelli’s well-known spring mythological scenes, this stark painting depicts a portrait of Christ. From the front, the man,  dressed in a red habit on a black background, has his hands crossed and wears a wreath of hawthorns, a symbol of his past crucifixion. The thorns still pierce the forehead of this risen Christ,  whose drawn facial features express a pain beyond death. From this Thursday, October 7, this work, as mystical as it is secret, resurfaces in Hong Kong, where it will be exhibited for four days before being shown in Los Angeles, London and Dubai before returning to New York in January 2022, in the premises of Sotheby’s before its sale. And if it is impossible for Europeans To travel to the United States this winter, the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris is currently celebrating the creative genius of the great Italian artist through an exhibition-event “Botticelli: artist and designer”, to be discovered until January 24. 



The sale “Masters Week” will take place in January 2022 at Sotheby’s, New York.

“Botticelli: artist and designer”, Musée Jacquemart-André, until January 24, 2022, Paris, 8th. 

The Man of Sorrows, Sandro Botticelli, late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, tempera and oil on canvas, 69 x 51.4 cm. ©Courtesy Sotheby’s