The sum, although an auction record for the artist and the third-highest price for an Old Master drawing, was below its presale estimate ‘in the region of €30m’. With fees added, the price was €23.2m (£19.6m).
The 13 x 8in (33 x 20cm) pen and ink sketch, A nude young man (after Masaccio) surrounded by two figures, had previously been declared a ‘National Treasure’ in France which prevented it from being exported from the country for 30 months.
Following the expiry of the export block, Christie’s offered it on May 18.
Back in 1907, it had sold at an auction in the Hôtel Drouot in Paris as a work of the school of Michelangelo but it was identified as an autograph work by Furio Rinaldi, then a specialist in Christie’s, in 2019.
In terms of the most expensive Old Master drawings ever sold, the Michelangelo stands behind two works by Raphael: a black chalk drawing, Head of an Apostle, which came from Chatsworth and made a hammer price of £26.5m at Sotheby’s in 2012, and Head of a Muse that made £26m at Christie’s in 2009.
Christie’s auctioneer at the current sale Victoire Gineste said: “The auction of an art work of this magnitude may well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”