Rare Michelangelo Drawing Could Fetch €30 Million at Auction
A drawing by Michelangelo could sell for more than $40 million when it goes up for auction. The 15th-century drawing depicts a man in a fresco with two others standing near him. It wasn't until 2019 that an art specialist recognized it was one of Michelangelo's. A previously undiscovered drawing by Italian Renaissance sculptor and painter Michelangelo, which was recently uncovered, will be auctioned in Paris this May by Christie's, with an estimate of €30 million (US$32.7 million). The drawing is thought to date from the end of the 15th century and is one of the artist's early works. It is a replica of a shivering man seen in Masaccio's fresco "Baptism of the Neophytes." In the drawing, two other persons stand beside him. "This drawing I think is one of the most exciting discoveries made in the field of Old Masters drawings in a long time," said Stijn Alsteens, Christie's international head of the department for Old Master drawings. The shivering man in the Baptism of the Neophytes, one of the frescoes from the Santa Maria del Carmine Church in Florence by early Italian Renaissance artist Masaccio, who lived from 1401 to 1428, is depicted in the drawing, which features a naked young man (after Masaccio) surrounded by two figures. "It shows Michelangelo doing two things at once, looking back at artists who came before him, in this case, Masaccio, as well as looking forward to his own work and the revolutionary aspect of it — in particular the depiction of the human body, which becomes such an important part both in the sculptures, I think of the David in Florence, or the many, many figures he painted in the Sistine Chapel," Alsteens explained. Masaccio, in addition to looking forward to his own work and the revolutionary aspects of it — in particular, the depiction of the human form, which becomes such an important role both in sculptures, such as the David in Florence, or the many, many figures he painted in the Sistine Chapel. The drawing was last sold in 1907 as a work of Michelangelo's school at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris, and it then vanished from public view until 2019, when Furio Rinaldi, then a specialist in Christie's department of Old Master Drawings, recognized it as a Michelangelo work, according to the auction house. It was painted at the end of the 15th century and is thought to be the artist's first surviving nude study, according to Christie's. The artist died in 1564. According to Christie's, the drawing's Michelangelo attribution was later validated by Paul Joannides, Emeritus Professor of Art History at Cambridge University, and the Musée du Louvre. The drawing had been classed as a French national treasure, preventing it from being exported, but Christie's said the French government recently withdrew the status, allowing it to be offered to collectors anywhere around the globe. A work by Michelangelo should naturally become a highly sought-after object from the perspective of a collector who lives true to his name. At a time when any auction of modern and contemporary art includes multiple works for tens of millions of euros, €30 million for a sketch by one of the biggest names in the history of universal art does not seem overblown. If the work's modest size concerns you, keep in mind that a tiny (7 by 7 cm) drawing by Leonardo da Vinci sold for £8.9 million at auction last year. In 2012, Sotheby auctioneers sold "Head of an Apostle," a sketch by Raphael, another Renaissance painter and Michelangelo contemporary, for 29.7 million pounds ($38.88 million). "I believe what makes the drawing unique is that it is a work by one of the finest artists in Western art history," Alsteen remarked. "Only a few drawings and works by his hands have survived in private hands." Previously, two drawings by the Italian artist were auctioned for astronomical sums, indicating that Christie's assessment is accurate. In 2000, "The Risen Christ" sold for £8.1 million, and the following year, "Study of a Mourning Woman" sold for £6 million. In 2017, the latter painting was sold to the Getty Museum for an undisclosed sum. Prior to the auction on May 18 in Paris, the drawing, which comes from a private French collector, will be shown in Hong Kong and New York.