Botticelli Portrait Sells for $92.2 Million, Setting New Record

Multiple records, actually

Sotheby's Masters Week Auctions Press Preview
A preview of Sandro Botticelli's "Young Man Holding a Roundel" at Sotheby's on January 22, 2021 in New York City.
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

In 1982, real estate developer Sheldon Solow bought the Botticelli portrait “Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel” for $1.3 million. Much has changed in the years since then in the art world; Solow himself died last November. As for the Botticelli painting? The fate of Solow’s vast art collection was, until recently the subject of heated debate. Would it be auctioned off or, as Solow hoped, end up as part of a new museum?

If a New York Times article on the Botticelli auction is any indication, the proceeds from the sale of the portrait might end up funding the museum. That’s because “Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel” sold for $92.2 million at a Sotheby’s auction last week.

The sale set all kinds of records, including the highest amount paid for an Old Master work at Sotheby’s, the highest amount paid for a Botticelli painting and the second highest paid for a work by an Old Master ever.

At Hyperallergic, Valentina Di Liscia offered some welcome analysis of the sale, including the fact that this was one of 3 Botticelli portraits owned by a private collector. The new buyer of the portrait remains anonymous, as of now. This painting’s history, and the institution that might arise from the proceeds of its sale, raise a number of questions about the general public’s access to art, which will likely be discussed in the weeks and months to come.

Still — selling something for $92.2 million that was bought at $1.3 million? That’s not unlike buying GameStop stock at the right time.

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