Renaissance masterpiece by Titian expected to fetch up to £12 million at auction

One of the finest versions of the artist’s work, Venus and Adonis, is set to appear at Sotheby’s London auction on December 7.

21 October 2022

A Renaissance masterpiece by Italian painter Titian is expected to fetch up to £12 million when it goes under the hammer in December.

One of the finest versions of the artist’s work, Venus and Adonis, was unveiled on Friday morning in London, and will feature in a sale at Sotheby’s auction house on December 7.

The painting is considered among the most highly-prized of Titian’s works, with renditions starring in the collections of the world’s most illustrious public institutions today.

It was first popularised as one of a cycle of paintings he created for one of the most powerful men in the world at the time, King Philip II of Spain.

The painting depicts the young Adonis pulling himself away from his lover Venus, carrying a feathered spear and the leads of his three hounds.

The god Cupid lies asleep under a nearby tree and in the sky a figure rides a chariot.

Only a dozen renditions survive today, more than half of which are held in major public collections including the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the National Gallery in London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York.

George Gordon, co-chairman of Old Master Paintings Worldwide at Sotheby’s, said the sale was a “once in a generation opportunity”.

Titian: Love Desire Death exhibition at National Gallery
A visitor views Diana and Callisto (left) and Venus and Adonis (right), part of Titian’s Poesie series of large-scale Greek mythological paintings, at the National Gallery in London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“The subject of Venus and Adonis is justly celebrated as one of Titian’s most popular creations, sought out by collectors the world over ever since it was made famous by his ambitious commission for the future Philip II of Spain 470 ago,” he said.

“One of the very finest of Titian’s renditions of this subject, it is only recent research, made possible by its re-emergence last year, that has revealed the full extent of the artist’s hand in the execution of this painting, surely one of the finest works by Titian to appear on the market this century.

“The offering of a painting of extreme rarity by one of the greats of the Renaissance is a once in a generation opportunity.”

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