This is pretty quick turnaround for an Old Master painting. Orazio Borgianni was a contemporary of Caravaggio. The current market interest in Caravaggisti, artists who were inspired by Caravaggio like Orazio Gentileschi, has generated some very strong sales. In December, a major self-portrait by Orazio Borgianni was sold for €290k at German auction house Leo Spik. Now, only two months later, the owner believes Sotheby’s Old Masters Paintings Evening Sale on January 29 will provide a better venue where the estimate is for $400,000 – 600,000. That’s still a far cry from the $5.3m paid in 2012 for the most valuable Borgianni ever to come to auction. Here’s Sotheby’s description of the work on offer now:
The remarkable ascension of the painting is a recognition or Borgianni’s overlooked place in annals of art history and that he was a notable figure in a bustling artistic community in Rome. A contemporary of Caravaggio, Borgianni lived a similarly peripatetic, roguish life that included wounding a man in a sword fight and the accusation that he, along with artist Carlo Saraceni, plotted an assault on rival artist and writer Giovanni Baglione. In Baglione’s Lives of the Artists, Borgianni is even said to have attacked Caravaggio in Rome by throwing a bottle of varnish at him after Caravaggio allegedly laughed at the artist. While details about Borgianni’s life are scant, what is known about him portrays the artist as the modern archetype of a rebel artist, which centuries later would come to define the popular idea of an artist.
The self-portrait itself is astonishingly modern in its portrayal of the artist as a rakish, debonair young man. With a pensive and almost bored expression, Borgianni’s self-portrait captures the young artist at the height of his artistic power and confidence, seemingly unperturbed by the demands of his profession. The painting also includes the Latin inscription “QVO MAGIS RIMOR, MAGIS MIROR,” which translates to “the more I seek, the more I am amazed,” a proto-Enlightenment motto that further establishes the artist’s modern attitude.