Michelangelo's 'exceptionally rare' Battle of Cascina drawing could fight to $8.2m
Christie's will offer an exceptional and rarely seen drawing by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) at the Old Masters and British Paintings Evening Sale on Tuesday July 5 2011 in London.

Drawn at a pivotal point of the artist's career, this preparatory study is one of only 24 sheets related to his seminal, prestigious and lost commission of The Battle of Cascina - and the last to remain in private hands.

The commission saw Michelangelo pitched directly alongside his elder rival Leonardo da Vinci who was commissioned to paint The Battle of Anghiari on the opposite wall of the newly-built Sala del Gran Consiglio in Florence's Palazzo della Signoria.

The drawing has been seen in public only once before at the exhibition of the artist's drawings at the Albertina, Vienna, in 2010, and is expected to realise £3m to £5m. It is being offered at auction for the first time having been in the same collection for over 30 years.

Needless to say, Michelangelo's works make extremely strong alternative investments as he is one of the very few artists whose reputation has never faltered and who excites the same admiration today as he did among his contemporaries, who called him 'divine'.

Last year, some art experts started to cluster around the view that a painting held in Buffalo, New York (behind a sofa) was indeed a Michelangelo as the owners believed, and an estimate of $300m was suggested.

Of course authenticity makes all the difference in the world. In December 2009, there was a firestorm when it was suggested that a crucifix which the Vatican had bought for €3m carved by the old master was nothing of the kind.

Michelangelo Battle Cascina
Michelangelo's draft for The Battle of Cascina

The Battle of Cascina was to represent a Florentine victory of 1364 over neighbouring Pisa, against which the Florentines were again considering military action in 1504.

Florentine civic virtue was to be commemorated through two frescoes, each representing a historical victory. The two frescoes were to be executed by the two most notable Florentine artists of the day: Michelangelo and Leonardo, directly set against one another in a thrilling 'battle of Battles'.

Benjamin Peronnet, Director and International Head of Old Master and 19th Century Drawings, Christie's enthused:

"This drawing relates to one of the highpoints of the Renaissance - the commissions for the Sala del Gran Consiglio in Florence.

"The young Michelangelo was pitched directly against his elder rival, Leonardo da Vinci, as both were commissioned to execute large-scale depictions of battle scenes. Sadly neither exists, and there are few relics relating to these epic masterpieces.

"This drawing offers an exceptionally rare, direct link to one of the greatest Western masterpieces that never was, and offers us a glimpse into the mind of a genius at the peak of his powers as he freely put his thoughts to paper.

"We're very excited to be offering the work at auction for the first time, and to be able to show a rarely seen drawing by Michelangelo to the public in Hong Kong, New York and London."

Watch this space for more news on this exciting sale.


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