In 14th century, the house of Medici supported promising artists in Italy and paved the way for the golden age of Italian Renaissance. Sandro Botticelli was one of the artists who received the strongest support from Medici. His portrait was recently sold at Sotheby’s auction for 92.2 million dollars. Who is the man in the portrait and why is the painting so valuable?
The model in the portrait is assumed to be a young man from the Medici family, as the portrait’s composition and expression appears like ‘Portrait of a Man with a Medal of Cosimo the Elder’, another painting by Botticelli. The tunic worn by the man appears to be simple and humble like the clothes of a priest, but it was actually very rare and valuable, with blue clothing being very hard to find in Firenze at that time. It would not have been affordable if he were not a Medici. In the round medal, Bartolomeo Bulgarini, one of the top artists of 14th-century Italy, is depicted as a saint.
The young man of the Medici family could have been depicted as a man of power, clothed in extravagant garment to show off his wealth. He could have held a book in his hand to show off his intellectual capabilities. However, he chose to be depicted as a supporter for art. The artist appears to depict the idealistic values that the high society in Firenze aspired for. Only those who value and appreciate art can rule Firenze.
Botticelli drew large scale paintings of myths and Biblical background, but only about 10 of his portraits remain today. This painting is valued because it was created by one of the most prominent Renaissance painters, a rare portrait of Botticelli, reflects values of the times and depicts a Medici family member. It had been exhibited at major art museums around the world for more than 40 years and never been on the market. It is more than enough to attract the attention of wealthy art collectors.