Did scientific evidence make all the difference?

Jan 29, 2021 | Authentications & attributions, Highlights

Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel, by Sandro Botticelli, was last offered at auction at Christie’s London in December 1982 with the title Portrait of Giovanni de Pierfrancesco de’ Medici and it was sold to the New York real estate magnate Sheldon Solow for a then-record £810,0000 ($1.1 million in today’s currency).

Some eminent scholars at that time including the consultant in the Old Master department at Christie’s, held reservations about the attribution to Botticelli, and preferred to credit his less renowned colleague Francesco Botticini as actual painter.

As we read in The Art Newspaper Mr. Solow, the then buyer, to be reassured about the authorship of the painting asked an art historian go to the saleroom and report back to him. The scholar told Solow that he indeed did not know whether it was a Botticelli or a Botticini, but that it in his opinion it was the epitome of a great Renaissance portrait. Solow bought the picture the following day.

This time the painting had a thorough scientific examination dossier, including XRays, IR reflectography, XRFluorescence and more. The name Botticini never came back and Botticelli sold at at almost 9x price time compared to 1982.

May diagnostics take the credits for this?

Anna Pelagotti