On Saturday, a rare 17th-century drawing by Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini sold for €1.9 million ($2.3 million) at an auction in France, setting a new record for a drawing by the artist.
Académie d’homme, a red chalk drawing made between 1630 and 1640, depicts a nude male sitter. Actéon, the French auction house selling the work in Compiègne, estimated it at €30,000–€50,000 ($36,000–$60,000). Bids quickly mounted during the live sale led by auctioneer Dominique Le Coënt, with the work finally hammering at a price of €1.55 million ($1.9 million), a result met with applause among spectators in the room.
The price is far beyond the last record for a Bernini drawing, set in 2014 by the sale of a work for €139,000 ($166,000). Le Coënt said in a statement that the drawing went to an anonymous buyer based outside France.
The work is from an “extremely small corpus of academic figures known to Bernini,” Le Coënt said. There are only seven other known examples of Bernini’s academy drawings, each residing in museums collections, with the Uffizi in Florence among them.
According to the house, the work was discovered by auctioneer Philomène Wolf as part of an estate in the French region and initially misattributed to the French Baroque sculptor Pierre Puget. Actéon brought in Old Masters specialist Patrick de Bayser to review the authentication. After ruling out a number of other Italian masters, he found the present work mirrored another copy by Bernini.
“This work which represents a naked man could, like so many others, have fallen into oblivion,” Le Coënt said in a statement.
Bernini is recognized most widely for his statues and for producing Rome’s Four Rivers Fountain at the Piazza Navona. In January, a new record for a Bernini work was set at Sotheby’s during the estate sale of the late New York old masters collector Hester Diamond. In that sale, a sculpture made by Bernini and his son Pietro, titled Autumn (1616), sold for $8.9 million. The result beat the previous record set in 2002 when his terracotta bozzetto sketch Il Moro sold at Sotheby’s London for $3.2 million.