Rare Botticelli under the hammer in New York, one year after record sale price

Sandro Botticelli's 'Man of Sorrows' is expected to reach $40 million when it goes on the block at Sotheby's New York

NEW YORK: A rare Botticelli painting depicting Jesus Christ will go up for auction on Thursday at Sotheby's in New York, a year after a record $92 million was paid for a work by the Italian Renaissance master.

While the majority of works by Sandro Botticelli, such as the famous "Allegory of Spring" or "Birth of Venus", are on display at the Uffizi gallery in Florence, pieces circulating in private collections are much rarer.

"In private hands, we reckon there's only about five or so that we know out there," Christopher Apostle, head of Sotheby's Old Masters department, told AFP.

"Man of Sorrows," on display to the public from Saturday at the auction house in New York, is a portrait of Jesus against a black background. He is staring intently, a crown of thorns on his head and surrounded by angels. His hands are bound by ropes and scarred.

"This picture, it's later in his life. It's probably painted when he was in his late 50s," around the 1500s, said Apostle.

"As someone gets older, they become more introspective, more metaphysical, more spiritual. And I think you see that very profoundly in this picture," he said.

The well preserved painting had remained with the same family of art collectors, who split their time between Britain and Italy, since the mid 19th century, before being sold to its current owners in 1963 at auction for 10,000 pounds at Sotheby's.

"That would have been a significant price at the time," said Apostle.

The auction house has set its estimate at more than $40 million dollars.

In January 2021, a Botticelli painting entitled "Young Man Holding a Roundel" sold for $92.2 million dollars at auction in Sotheby's in New York. It was a record at auction for the Italian painter, whose frescoes adorn the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

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