Vermeer's Saint Praxedis to see $13m with Christie's

Christie's has been chosen to auction one of just two works by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) in private hands on July 8 in London.

Vermeer Saint Praxedis
Saint Praxedis is based on a composition by Florentine Felice Ficherelli

The piece has only recently been attributed to the master artist, with Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum endorsing the match.

It has also been identified as one of the earliest works of art produced by Vermeer, making it one of the most exciting old master sales of recent times.

Christie's describes the emergence of scientific evidence as "a significant art historical development" and has given the piece a £6m-8m estimate.

Vermeer achieved a modest celebrity during his lifetime, but following his death he fell into relative obscurity with just a few Dutch collectors still concerned with his work.

However, after more than two centuries, a misattributed work led to his rediscovery and the Vermeer name was once again brought to the attention of the art collecting elite.

However, this has left a dearth of his work, with just three of his paintings able to be dated. The most famous of these is perhaps the Girl with the Pearl Earring, a masterpiece that has captured imaginations for centuries.

The lead white paint used in Saint Praxedis has been matched with the paint used in Vermeer's Diana and her Companions, which currently hangs in the Mauritshuis, the Hague.  

In fact, the match is so distinct, that scholars believe that the exact same batch of paint as used for both.

The work comes from the collection of Barbara Piasecka Johnson (1937-2013), whose husband was an heir to the Johnson and Johnson medical firm.

Johnson and her husband acquired some of the world's finest old master works, with the only drawing by Botticelli in private hands coming to Sotheby's on July 9.

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