Rare Botticelli could beat $100 million

Sothebys says a rare Botticelli could sell for more than $US100 million at auction in New York.
Sothebys says a rare Botticelli could sell for more than $US100 million at auction in New York.

A rare Botticelli portrait could join the $US100 million art club when it goes up for auction in New York, Sotheby's says.

The Renaissance artist's "Young Man Holding a Roundel" is one of only around a dozen of his portraits known to survive today.

Sandro Botticelli's large-scale "Birth of Venus" and "Primavera" paintings are displayed in Florence's Uffizi Gallery.

The 15th century work, which has also been known as "Young Man Holding a Medallion," is expected to sell for more than $US80 million ($A112.5 million) at Sotheby's Old Masters sale in January in New York.

It has the highest estimate for an Old Master in Sotheby's history and the auction house said it could well sell for more than $US100 million ($A140.6 million).

"There are a number of artists that ... are Olympian really in their genius. And Botticelli is one of those," said Christopher Apostle, director of Old Masters paintings at the auction house.

"The estimate really reflects the quality, the condition, the enormous rarity and the huge impact that a painting like this has visually," Apostle said.

Fewer than 20 works of art have sold at auction for more than $US100 million. The last was Claude Monet's "Meules," one of his celebrated "Haystacks" series, that went in May 2019 for $US110 million, setting a record for an Impressionist work.

The world auction record for any painting was set in 2017 with the $US450 million for "Salvator Mundi," attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

Sotheby's said "Young Man Holding a Roundel" was acquired by its present, unidentified owner, at an auction in 1982 in the United Kingdom.

It shows an unknown young man, likely a member of Florence's elite in the late 15th century, dressed in a simple tunic with a blue sky behind him and holding a roundel, or medallion.

Australian Associated Press