How do you sell a £10m Raphael drawing?

October 31 2012

Video: Sotheby's

If you're Sotheby's, with a touch of Hollywood, and lashings of hyperbole. In this cleverly shot 'trailer', Sotheby's have gone all moody, with string music and tilt shift focussing to give a tempting glimpse of the Raphael Head of an Apostle on offer in their December Old Master sale (with an estimate of £10m-£15m). They have also drafted in their 'voice' of art, Tobias Meyer, which suggests, given that he is usually to be found selling modern and contemporary art, that Sotheby's are hoping to look beyond the circle of Old Master buyers for the drawing.

I'm all for presenting Old Masters in a trendy new light. But check out the guff here - Meyer says, presumably without blushing:

This drawing is the complete pivotal centrepoint of art history. It opens up everything toward the future.

Now it's a fine drawing, and will no doubt exceed its estimate. But if an art history undergraduate said that a drawing (or more specifically, an 'auxilary cartoon') for an unnamed apostle by Raphael was 'the complete pivotal centrepoint of art history', that is, a work so important that every other work of art before or since revolved around it, their tutor would not only choke on his or her biscuit, but stab the paper violently with a red pen.

Must try harder...

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