Later this year, Sotheby’s will be offering three valuable works of art from the Devonshire collection at Chatsworth House including one of the best Raphael drawings remaining in private hands.
Estimated at £10m-15m, it will feature at the Old Master evening
sale in London on December 5 alongside two 15th century
illuminated manuscripts also from Chatsworth which rank among the
finest examples of their kind ever to come to auction.
The current Duke of Devonshire is the company's deputy chairman,
having joined the Sotheby's board in November 1994, and these
consignments follow the £5.26m
dispersal of items from the Chatsworth attics in October 2010,
as well as the start of Sotheby's seventh Beyond Limits
selling exhibition of sculpture, an event held annually on the
grounds of the Derbyshire estate.
In a press release received by ATG, the Duke said the funds
raised from these sales will be used "to benefit the long-term
future of Chatsworth and its collections".
The Raphael drawing itself is a black chalk sketch executed
c.1519-20 and was a study for one of the figures in The
Transfiguration, one his greatest paintings, now in the
Entitled Head of an Apostle, the 14¾ x 11in (38 x 28cm)
picture is one of 17 auxiliary cartoons for The
Transfiguration that are known, nine of which currently
feature in an exhibition on the late works of Raphael in the Prado
Museum in Madrid.
As with many of the 2000 or so drawings at Chatsworth, Head
of an Apostle was bought by William Cavendish, the 2nd Duke of
Devonshire (1672-1729), an avid collector who managed to regularly
beat all the other leading European collectors of the time to own
the greatest prizes that became available.
Despite the sale of this undoubtedly important work, the
Chatsworth estate will still retain 14 Raphael drawings - more than
any British collection apart from the British Museum and the
Ashmolean. Two that will remain are also studies for The
The last major auction of drawings from Chatsworth was back in
July 1984 when Christie's sold a sensational group of 71 sketches
which totalled £19.6m. As well as a page from Vasari's Libro
de' disegni which took £3m and a portrait by Hans Holbein the
Younger that made £1.45m, there were also two Raphaels - one
drawing of St Paul that made £1.4m and the red chalk Head and
Hand of an Apostle that sold for £3.3m, then a record for an
Old Master drawing at auction.
Indeed, the latter work reappeared at Christie's in December
1996 when it was knocked down at £4.8m to an anonymous
However, since then the bar has seriously risen for Raphael
The auction record now stands at £26m
following the sale of the black chalk Head of a Muse at
Christie's in December 2009. It was reportedly bought by the
American collector Leon Black who more recently was also the
rumoured buyer of Edvard
Munch's The Scream when it sold for $107m (£69m) at
Sotheby's in May.
Whether he will emerge as a contender for Head of an
Apostle remains to be seen but, either way, the drawing will
likely provide some significant funds for the upkeep of
Meanwhile, the illuminated manuscripts from the Devonshire
collection being sold by Sotheby's were both made for two of the
finest libraries of the 15th century. Mystere
de la Vengeance, which has been estimated at £4-6m, was
commissioned by the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good (1396-1467),
one of the great royal art patrons and book collectors of the late
Middle Ages. It features 20 large illuminated miniatures and the
text of a play in French which was performed for the Philip
It was acquired by the 6th Duke of Devonshire at the
celebrated Roxburghe sale of 1812, when it sold for £493.10s. -
then the highest price ever paid for any illuminated
The second illuminated manuscript, estimated at £3-5m, is an
account of the fictional and swashbuckling Deeds of Sir Gillion
de Trazegnies in the Holy Land. It was produced in 1464 for
Louis de Gruuthuse (1422-92), courtier to Philip the Good, and was
later among the treasured works in the library of François I, King
of France (1515-47).
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