NEW YORK – Moments ago in Sotheby’s New York salesroom, Sir Peter Paul Rubens’s Nude Study of Young Man with Raised Arms – one of the most important drawings by the iconic artist to appear on the open market in over 50 years – sold for $8.2 million after intense competition between two bidders during this morning’s sale of Old Master Drawings. Today’s price more than doubled the work’s high estimate of $3.5 million, and established a new world auction record for a drawing by the artist.
This powerful drawing formerly belonged to King William II of the Netherlands and his wife Anna Pavlovna, who together amassed one of the finest collections formed anywhere in Europe in the 19thcentury. While many of the works they owned now reside in major museums, both in the Netherlands and around the world, this drawing was among those that passed down privately through the family.
Gregory Rubinstein, Head of Sotheby’s Old Master Drawings Department, commented: “Created at such an important moment in the artist’s life, there was a real sense of immediacy to this drawing – a sense of looking over the artist’s shoulder as he works. It’s been a real privilege to spend time with this drawing, which has captivated the imagination of all who saw it.”
Drawn by the artist shortly after his return to Antwerp from Italy in late 1608 and in preparation for his monumental altarpiece, The Raising of the Cross, the drawing provides the viewer with a fascinating insight into Rubens’s working methods, as well as the energy and vigor employed by the artist in his best drawings.
Throughout his life, Rubens made substantial, chalk figure studies, but his drawings of this type are at their most imposing and sculptural in these first years back in Antwerp. At this pivotal moment, Rubens made figure studies that are genuinely Michelangelesque in their grandeur, and drawings of this type also take on a more important role in his creative process at this point than at any other time in his career.
The sale also saw a strong price achieved for a red chalk Portrait of a youth, attributed to Agostino Caracci, which sold for $1.5 million – more than 40 times its pre-sale estimate of $35/45,000.
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