A drawing by Raphael which was expected to fetch around 15 million GBP, sold for 29.7 million GBP (47.8 Million USD) at Sotheby's Old Master & British painting sale on Wednesday (December 5).
It's the first time in three centuries that the drawing has changed owners. Part of the Devonshire collection, the current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire sold the work - to an unidentified buyer - along with other items, including two rare 15th century manuscripts, in order to secure the future of their Chatsworth Estate.
Described as one of Raphael's most important drawings, the black chalk work, created some time around 1519-1520, depicts the head of an Apostle from the artist's famous Transfiguration painting, the final of the Raphael's masterpieces, who died at the young age of 37.
"It was, it was a bit of a tennis game", Gregory Rubinstein, Head of Old Masters and Drawings described the bidding process.
"It went around the room to four different people. I have to say for our nerves it would have been better if it hadn't lasted quite so long but in the end it was obvious that the people who were interested didn't wanna give up," he said.
Rubinstein said he was delighted with the sale result.
"This was one of probably the three most important by Raphael that have come up at auction since the Second World War so it was an incredibly rare and important work . It had an impeccable provenance as well. It had been in the Devonshire Collection, the Chatsworth for 300 years and really it was about as exciting and desirable a drawing that one could ever imagine."
The Devonshires own one of the largest Raphael collections in the UK, only third behind the British Museum and the Ashmolean.
One of the two manuscripts from the collection, said to be one of the finest still in private hands, also exchanged owners on the night. The J. Paul Getty Museum bought the illuminated manuscript for 3.8 million GBP (6.19 million USD) (LOT 51).
The manuscript was initially commissioned by Louis de Gruuthuse, a keen book collector. Titled "The Deeds of Sir Gillion de Trazegenies in the Middle East", it depicts the adventures of a knight during the crusades.
With a total of 58 million GBP, Wednesday night's sale proved to be the highest taking of the season in Europe, proving that there still is strong appetite on the market.
"The market seems to be quite healthy and strong", Sotheby's specialist Christiana Romalli noted. "When you have the right work, when you have the right quality obviously the market responds. Something like the Raphael is exceptional because that where you cannot judge the response because you have a really one-off. It's not something that you can really be sure. So lets say we're happy."
Other highlights at Wednesday evening's sale included the portrait of Giovanni Gaddi (1493-1542) by the Forentine School, which went for 1.2 million GBP and another painting by Jan Havicksz, "The Prayer Before the Meal", which went for 5.6 million GBP.