A newly attributed drawing by Michelangelo will go under the hammer at Christie’s Paris next month with an estimate "in the region of €30m", the auction house says. A nude young man (after Masaccio) surrounded by two figures has been consigned to the Old Masters and 19th-century art: paintings, drawings and sculptures sale in Paris on 18 May.
However, when the work, dating from the late 15th century, was sold in 1907 at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris, it was attributed to “the school of Michelangelo” (lot 34 under the description Michel-Ange, École de). Christie’s says in a statement that the drawing was first recognised as a work of Michelangelo in 2019 by Furio Rinaldi, then a specialist in Christie’s department of Old Master Drawings (he is now curator of drawings and prints at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco).
“Paul Joannides, the emeritus professor of art history at Cambridge University and author of the complete catalogues of drawings by Michelangelo and his school in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and the Musée du Louvre, later was able to study the original, and supports the attribution,” the statement adds.
According to our sister newspaper, The Art Newspaper France, the work comes from a French collection and was classed as a “national treasure” by the French government in 2019 to prevent it being exported abroad (under French law, such works can be held for up to 30 months). The French government recently removed this designation and has granted its export licence, enabling the drawing to be offered without any restriction to collectors worldwide, Christie’s says.
The work, made in two shades of brown ink, shows the shivering man depicted in the Baptism of the Neophytes, a fresco adorning the Santa Maria del Carmine Church in Florence by the early Italian Renaissance master Masaccio (1401-28). The two figures alongside the protagonist are thought to have been added later.
In 2000, a Michelangelo drawing in chalk and ink sold to a German art dealer at Christie’s for £8.1m. Another major Old Master work on paper, Head of a Muse (1508-11) by Raphael, fetched a record £29m at Christie’s in December 2009.