Most Raphael’s hang in major museums and rarely come to auction, but NY dealer Ira Spanierman, who bought an “Italian School” painting from a Sotheby Parke Bernet sale in 1968, found himself a miracle. The work, by Raffaello Sanzio – called Raphael was bought for $325 and yesterday evening, resold at Christie’s Old Master sale in London for ₤16.5 million or $33.2 million.
Spanierman said the 1968 sale was low-level and hung salon style (from floor to ceiling), but he noticed the quality of a hand and fur collar in an otherwise filthy painting. Paintings that are restored prior to an auction sale are less attractive to dealers. Dealers are looking to clean, rediscover and exhibit. The success rate of this has decreased dramatically with fewer sleepers on the market.
He then said that his restorer found a label on the back that said it had been exhibited as a Raphael. Most labels verso are very helpful, but those that claim a work was by a known master are often incorrect and misleading.
He then contacted scholars to authenticate the work. These scholars are usually, if living, the author of the artist’s catalogue raisonnne or a kin of the artist. It is very expensive to have a work authenticated – the more valuable the artist, the more costly the inspection.
Unlike David Rockefeller, who was on hand to see the sale of his Rothko, Spainerman decided not to go to the sale. Most sellers like to sit in the back center of the sale gallery so they can have a better look at who is bidding in the seating in front of them.
And why didn’t the dealer he sell privately? “Dealers used to run the art business, and now I have to say, with a few exceptions, the auction houses run the business. They have the widest audience.”
Raffaello Sanzio, called Raphael
(Urbino 1483-1520 Rome)
Portrait of Lorenzo de’Medici (1492-1519), Duke of Urbino
oil on canvas
Estimate £10,000,000-15,000,000 (₤16.5 million)