October 14, 2005

Rare Michelangelo to be sold in New York next year

By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A late Michelangelo drawing, one of
the few to survive the artist's attempt to destroy them, will
be auctioned off next year, when the 450-year-old work will
likely fetch some $4 million, Christie's said on Friday.

"Study of a male torso," which the Italian artist completed
in the 1550s, is being sold by a private collector who bought
the black chalk drawing in 1976 at a public sale for $318,214,
which at the time set a new record for an Old Master Drawing.

Christie's, which will sell "Male torso" on January 24,
characterized the drawing as one of a small number of late
works by Michelangelo, who died in 1564, that appear to be
related to the Christ figure for a Pieta composition, which is
among the artist's most renowned and revered sculptures.

The work's proportions suggest it was the summation of a
lifetime's study of the human form rather than a drawing from a
studio model, the auction house said.

"The searching and sensitive chalk strokes of this powerful
drawing epitomize Michelangelo's lifelong preoccupation with
the expressive possibilities of the male nude," said Noel
Annesley, honorary chairman of Christie's International Ltd. in
a statement announcing the sale.

Christie's did not identify the owner, but the New York
Times reported on Friday that the piece is now owned by Walter
Gernsheim, a dealer who is also a private collector.

Once part of a famous collection created by Scotsman John
Malcolm of Poltalloch, Scotland, most of which was bought by
the British Museum upon his death, "Male torso" remained with
the Malcolm family until the 1976 sale.

Dating from the period when the artist was completing his
monumental work on St. Peter's in Rome, the piece was one of
few to survive Michelangelo's determined destruction, chiefly
by fire, of his own drawings, Christie's noted.

Of the tens of thousands of drawings he is thought to have
produced over seven decades, just over 600 survive, with only a
small handful still in private collections.

The auction record for an Old Master drawing, as well as
any Michelangelo, is held by "The Risen Christ," which sold for
$12.3 million at Christie's London on July 4, 2000. In 1998,
his "Christ and the Woman of Samaria" sold for $7,482,500.