A Sandro Botticelli painting of the Virgin Mary that was once owned by the late Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen will be auctioned Christie’s this November. The house expects that it will fetch more than $40 million, making it one of the most expensive works from Allen’s estate to head to sale.
In late August, the auction house made waves when it announced plans to sell $1 billion in art held by Allen. Among the works headed to sale are pieces by Claude Monet, George Seurat, Jasper Johns, and Paul Cézanne. The sale proceeds will go toward philanthropic causes Allen established prior to his death in 2018 at the age of 65.
“This is an image that defines the popular notion of Botticelli as an artist,” Christie’s London-based Old Masters specialist Andrew Fletcher told ARTnews, describing the painting as “imposing and intimate.”
Measuring at 24 inches in diameter, Botticelli produced the painting, titled Madonna of the Magnificat, in the late 1480s, at a time when his studio was thriving. Experts at Christie’s believe the panel was most likely commissioned by a well-off patron who intended to display it in a private residence for devotional purposes. A similar example by the Italian painter belongs to the Uffizi Galleries in Florence.
The work has been in Allen’s private collection since 1999, when he acquired it privately for an undisclosed price.
Madonna of the Magnificat has been widely shown in museum exhibitions. It last appeared in the 2020 exhibition “Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from at the Seattle Museum of Art.” Before it entered his collection, the painting was shown at London’s National Gallery on long-term loan from 1960 to 1978.
When they resurface on the market, Botticelli paintings can generate large sums. In 2020, Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel sold from the collection of the late Sheldon Solow at Sotheby’s for a record-setting $92 million. This past January, Botticelli’s Man of Sorrows (ca. 1500), a portrait of Christ wearing a crown of thorns, sold for $45.5 million.
If Madonna of the Magnificat reaches its estimate, it will be among the top three works by the artist to sell at auction.
According to Fletcher, the amount of significant works by Botticelli still held privately “are tiny in number.”
The Botticelli will appear alongside pieces by Seurat and Van Gogh that are estimated to sell for more than $100 million.
The Allen sale, Fletcher remarked, is poised to be a significant one for the Old Masters market. “Botticelli is rubbing shoulders with the titans of 19th- and 20th-century art,” he said. “It’s putting him and his work in front of collectors who may not ordinarily have had their attention drawn in that direction.”