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Sale of Raphael drawing breaks auction records

A Sotheby's employee adjusts a drawing by Raffaello Sanzio, otherwise known as Raphael called Head of an Apostle, a Renaissance masterwork, during a press viewing in London, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

A drawing in black chalk by Raphael (1483-1520) sold at auction in London Wednesday evening for almost $48-million – a world auction record not only for an Old Master drawing but for any work on paper, according to Sotheby's London.

The sale of Head of an Apostle (1519-20) also ranks as the second biggest sale, by dollar value, of any Old Master work at auction, surpassed only by the $117-million the late Canadian art collector Kenneth Thomson paid in 2002 to Sotheby's London for a Peter Paul Rubens' canvas The Massacre of the Innocents (1611). That work now hangs in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

The drawing by the Italian master, consigned by the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth, sold to a telephone bidder, thought by some observers to be a Russian billionaire. The work depicts one of the key figures in Raphael's Transfiguration, described as "one of the greatest of all Renaissance paintings," and now in the permanent collection of the Vatican Museum. The modest-sized drawing went into bidding with a presale estimate of $16-million to $19-million. The previous record for an Old Master drawing, roughly $47-million, was established in 2009 by Christie's, again for a Raphael (Head of a Muse).

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