The drawing, one of the few works of the Renaissance Italian artist in private hands, was sold in 1907 in Paris and billed as a work of the school of Michelangelo. It was largely forgotten until 2019, when a Christie’s specialist recognized it as one of Michelangelo’s own.
The drawing is thought to be one of the artist’s early works, from around the end of the 15th century. It reproduces a shivering man depicted in a fresco, “Baptism of the Neophytes”, by Masaccio. Two other people stand near him in the drawing.
“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.
“It shows Michelangelo doing two things at the same time, looking back at artists that preceded him, in this particular 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 added.
The work had been designated a French national treasure, which prevented it from being exported, but the French government recently removed the designation, allowing the drawing to be offered to collectors anywhere in the world, Christie’s said.
The drawing is scheduled to be exhibited in Hong Kong and New York before it is auctioned in Paris on May 18.
($1 = 0.9145 euros)
By Lea Guedj