A Record for a Bernini Male Nude

On 25 March 2021, by Philippe Dufour

The drawing by the master of Baroque art, recently discovered by the Compiègne auction house and making its debut at auction, was bound to light up the proceedings. And its monumental result confirmed its creator.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), Male Nude, sanguine with light white chalk highlights, 56 x 42.5 cm (22 x 16.7 in).
Result: €1,937,500

Estimated at €30,000/50,000, this sanguine by Gian Lorenzo Bernini soared up to €1,937,500 after a fierce bidding battle on the live auction site and by phone, and was finally carried off by an American collector. The score achieved by the work was also a world record for a Bernini drawing, far outstripping the Portrait of Ottaviano Castelli sold for $233,000 in New York by Sotheby's on January 29, 2014 (source: Artnet). This is currently the highest hammer price posted for an Old Master drawing in France in 2021.

However, the nude, which was found in a collection in Compiègne, was unsigned and even possessed a label attributing it to the French artist Pierre Puget. It took the combined efforts of experts from de Bayser and specialist Ann Sutherland Harris to confirm the master's hand in this unusually powerful drawing, which now joins the very small corpus of extant nudes by Bernini.

The sanguine is part of a series of male nudes produced in the mid-17th century: all the few known examples are now in institutions like the Uffizi in Florence and the Teylers Museum in Haarlem (Netherlands). Another interesting feature of this nude is that it resembles the statues of rivers based on Bernini's drawings for the Baroque fountain in Piazza Navona in Rome. These equally muscular figures adopt the same precarious pose on their rock ledges, and we can easily imagine that the master took inspiration for them from the nudes in his studio.

Saturday 20 March 2021 - 14:00 - Live
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