On Tuesday, the Italian auction house Pandolfini set a new record for a 16th-century painting by Giorgio Vasari during the house’s “Masterpieces from Italian Collections” sale in Florence. Vasari’s The Temptations of San Girolamo sold for €800,000 ($942,000) with buyer’s fees, against an estimate of €300,000–€500,000 ($350,000–$590,000), to a private collector.
Two phone bidders competed for the painting, which depicts Saint Jerome’s vision of the crucifixion. In it, the saint is flanked by the goddess Venus and cupids, each personified as temptations. The scene is one that Vasari, a court artist for Florence’s Medici family, painted repeatedly throughout his career.
The present work was last exhibited in 1960 in Florence, according to the auction house’s record, and was sold from the Italy-based Graetz Collection. Another example of the same subject by the artist resides at the Leeds Museum in England, which acquired it in 1954 from Old Masters dealer Marshall Spink; an additional copy dated 1541 is in the collection of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence.
Credited as one of the founders of Western art history, Vasari is known principally for his biographies of Italian Renaissance artists. The sale of the large-scale work moved up the artist’s auction record from the previous $574,500 paid for The Pietà at Christie’s in New York two decades ago. The next highest price paid for a work by Vasari was in 2009 when a drawing of Christ and Saint Peter from the collection of art historian Robert Lebel sold for $567,124 at Sotheby’s in Paris.
Elsewhere in the sale, the house sold Alvise Vivarini’s depiction of the Madonna and child for €225,000 ($265,000), coming up shy of the artist’s current record of £330,000 ($389,000), which was achieved during a Sotheby’s London auction in December 2017 for the sale of Saint Ursula. The auction house also withdrew a porcelain and white enamel Bust of Claudio (1754-60) that had been given an estimate of €30,000–€50,000 ($35,000–$59,000), to facilitate a private sale with the Italian Ministry of Artistic and Cultural Heritage. That work is going to the collection of the Ginori Manufacture Museum in Doccia, according to a statement from Pandolfini.