Rare Sandro Botticelli Portrait Expected to Fetch $80 Million at Auction

A rare 15th-century portrait by Sandro Botticelli is going up for sale in January of 2021 Old Masters auction and is expected to break records.

Sep 28, 2020By Charlotte Davis, BA Art History
Young Man Holding a Roundel by Sandro Botticelli, 15th century, via Sotheby’s


A rare, privately-owned portrait by famed Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli is going up for auction at Sotheby’s in 2021. The 15th-century portrait titled Young Man Holding a Roundel will be featured in an Old Masters evening sale in Sotheby’s New York location and is predicted to sell for upwards of $80 million.


Christopher Apostle, the leader of Sotheby’s Old Masters painting department in New York, has also cited that it could sell for as much as $100 million. Apostle also stated in an interview that because there are only 12 known portraits by Sandro Botticelli, “it is an exceptionally rare thing within his known corpus.” 


Whether the portrait sells for $80 million or more, it is forecasted to become the most expensive Sandro Botticelli painting to ever sell at auction. The current record for a Sandro Botticelli piece is held by The Rockefeller Madonna (1491), which sold at Christie’s in 2013 for $10.4 million. Young Man Holding a Roundel is also expected to become the second most expensive Old Masters work to sell at auction, following Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (1490s), which sold for a record-breaking $450.3 million in 2017.


It Was Last Sold In 1982 For £810,000

Young Man Holding a Roundel by Sandro Botticelli, 15th century, via Sotheby’s


Young Man Holding a Roundel is one of the last known portraits by the Renaissance master that remains in a private collection. It has been in private hands for more than 100 years and has been loaned out to prestigious museums and institutions over the past 50 years, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the National Gallery in London.


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The portrait’s ownership was first recorded in the 1930s as part of the collection of Lord Newborough at Caernarvon in Wales and is thought to have been originally acquired in the 1700s-1800s by his ancestor Sir Thomas Wynn, 1st Lord of Newborough while he was living in Tuscany. Private collector Frank Sabin is thought to have bought it between 1935-38 for £12,000, subsequently selling it to Sir Thomas Ralph Merton in 1941 for £17,000. It was then purchased by its current owner in 1982 for £810,000. 


Sandro Botticelli: Embodiment Of The Early Renaissance

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, 1486, via The Uffizi Galleries, Florence


Sandro Botticelli remains one of the most renowned Italian Renaissance painters in western art history. He was a key figure of the Early Renaissance, pioneering the Italian transition into what is considered ‘high art’ today, and predating other notorious Renaissance artists including da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo. Apostle has stated that “In the popular imagination, no other painter evokes the golden age of the Florentine Renaissance more powerfully than Sandro Botticelli,” identifying his most famous masterpieces The Birth of Venus (1486) and Primavera (1482) as “among the most famous works in the canon of Western art.”


Young Man Holding a Roundel is no exception to Sandro Botticelli’s distinctive oeuvre, holding a place alongside paintings in notorious institutions such as Portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici (1478-80) in Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art or Portrait of a young man with the medal of Cosimo de’ Medici (1470s) in the Uffizi Galleries in Florence. These works along with The Birth of Venus and Primavera were all completed during the 1470s-80s. This period is noted as one of Sandro Botticelli’s most creative, as he produced several large-scale mythological works that featured elements of classical tradition and balanced subtlety in composition. 


Apostle states that Young Man Holding a Roundel is not only one of the best Sandro Botticelli pieces to feature at auction, but that it “is to be considered amongst the finest Renaissance paintings in private ownership,” and that “there will likely not be an opportunity to acquire a Renaissance painting of such importance and beauty for many years, if at all.

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By Charlotte DavisBA Art HistoryCharlotte is a contributing writer from Portland, Oregon now based in London, England. I’m an art historian with extensive knowledge in art history, classics, ancient art and archaeology.