An enigmatic painting from Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli will go on auction in January, and art watchers will be seeing if it fetches more than its eye-watering $80 million estimate, despite the pandemic. Botticelli's 15th-century portrait of a nobleman in Young Man Holding a Roundel is the highlight of Sotheby's Masters Week sale series in New York, the AP reports. "Just the sheer beauty of this has been a joy," said Christopher Apostle, who has handled Old Masters for more than three decades. "I can't think of a Botticelli like this that's been on the open international market." Opportunities to acquire a Botticelli—the artist behind such masterpieces as Primavera and The Birth of Venus—are rare. "The fact that there are 12 known portraits by Botticelli puts it in an elite type of situation," Apostle said. "These are the most personal things he produced, in a way. It's just something he's doing with one individual."
Sotheby's says it could get over $100 million. The last painting to achieve that level at auction was Claude Monet's Meules at Sotheby's New York in 2019, bringing $110 million. This painting was last acquired at auction in 1982 for £810,000, just over $1 million today. Apostle doesn't believe the pandemic will depress interest. "We've seen even during this time period that people are hungry for art, hungry for masterpieces, always." The painting, believed to have been executed in the late 1470s or early 1480s, actually represents two works. Botticelli painted the noble sitter, but the roundel—a circular disc used as a symbol—depicts a saint and is an original 14th-century work attributed to the Sienese painter Bartolommeo Bulgarini. Who the young man depicted is has been lost to history. In the past 50 years, the painting has been on loan at the National Gallery in London, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. (A Notorious B.I.G. auction also beat the forecast.)