PARIS, France — A recently rediscovered drawing by Michelangelo, the artist's first known nude, goes to auction at Christie's in Paris on Wednesday for a list price of 30 million euros (P1.6 billion).
The unpublished sketch in pen and brown ink is coming to the market for the first time in more than a century after it recently resurfaced in a private French collection.
The single lot sale, which will start at 12:30 GMT, is of a work that is partly based on a fresco by Masaccio in the Brancacci chapel in Florence.
Thereafter, the auction house will take bids for Old Masters works in a curated selection of European drawings, paintings, sculptures and works of art spanning from the 13th to the 19th centuries.
"There are fewer than ten drawings by Michelangelo which exist in private hands," Helene Rihal, director of Christie's ancient and 19th-century drawings department, told AFP ahead of the auction of the work last put up for sale in 1907 at Paris's Hotel Drouot.
The work by the Italian Renaissance genius (1475-1564) dates from the late 15th century and had thus far managed to "escape the attention of specialists", according to Christie's, which has declared it to be very well preserved.
It was only in 2019 that experts identified it as one of the artist's works during an inventory of a private French collection. That September it was declared a "national treasure of France", which prevented its exit from French territory for 30 months, while giving the French government and museums the opportunity to buy it back.
However, no offer was forthcoming and recent weeks saw the work exhibited in Hong Kong and New York to drum up interest ahead of the auction.
The sketch is the size of an A4 sheet of paper and may have been inspired by a fresco by the painter Masaccio, "The Baptism of the Neophytes" (1426-27).