Renaissance master Raphael’s drawing sold for £29.7 million

Today’s first bit of news is about the sale of one of the greatest drawings by Renaissance master Raffaello Sanzio (1483-1520), commonly referred to as Raphael. The drawing set a record at Sotheby’s London auction of Old Master paintings and drawings. Among the few works by Raphael still in private hands, it was sold for £29.7 million ($47.9 million), a price that was double its estimated value.

The Raphael sketch was part of a lot of artwork put up for sale by Peregrine Cavendish, the 12th duke of Devonshire, to raise money to preserve his family estate — Chatsworth. The duke who is the deputy chairman of Sotheby’s was quoted as saying, “The sale of these works, which our family has long cared for, will now benefit the long-term future of Chatsworth and its collections.” The forecast price for the Raphael sketch was between £10 million and £15 million.

Referred to as Head of a Young Apostle, the sketch in question is a study done by Raphael for his last painting, The Transfiguration, which now hangs in the Vatican Museum, Rome. When the artist died in 1520, his body was laid out in state in his studio with The Transfiguration hanging at his head.

Measuring roughly 15 inches by 11 inches and drawn in black chalk, it was acquired 300 years ago by William Cavendish, second duke of Devonshire, and kept in the family collection at Chatsworth, Derbyshire.

Our second bit of news is about a very important exhibition: Matisse: In Search of True Painting — an exploration of Matisse’s painting process, at the Metropilitan Museum in New York, which opened on December 4 and will be on till March 17, 2013.

The exhibition is a collaboration between The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, and the Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.

Henri Matisse, whose career spanned more than five decades, culminated with his death in 1954 at the age of 84 years. Widely celebrated as one of the greatest painters of the 20th century and an artistic genius, Matisse had a rather obsessive tendency to re-evaluate and constantly repaint his works. Hence he often repeated and redid his compositions to “compare results and gauge his progress”.

Pablo Picasso, Matisse’s friend and rival, once remarked, “Matisse makes a drawing, then he makes a copy of it. He copies it five times, ten times, always clarifying the line. He’s convinced that the last, the most stripped down, is the best, the purest, the definitive one. In fact, most of the time, it was the first.”

But unlike many others, he was never bored and summed up his prolific career by saying, “Why have I never been bored? Because for more than fifty years I have never ceased to work.”

A common motif in Matisse’s work throughout his career was the studio interior, interpreted by the artist in bold colours. In the spring of 1948, he wrote to his son Pierre that his most recent paintings “impress everyone who has seen them because they are vivid and rich.”

Matisse: In Search of True Painting, is a must for all art lovers.

If you should be lucky enough to be in New York anytime between now and March 17, stop by at the Metropolitan Museum to see the works of a true genius. Among his most famous paintings on show are: The Red Room: Harmony in Red (1908), Interior in Yellow and Blue (1946).

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