A pen-and-ink drawing that sold for $30 at a Concord estate sale is believed to be a work by the Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer, and some think it could be worth $50 million at market. After being consigned to the Agnews Gallery in London, which is offering it for sale, the drawing will make its way back to the United States next week.
The drawing, “The Virgin and Child with a Flower on a grassy Bench,” will be exhibited stateside for the first time during Master Drawings New York, which takes place Jan. 21-29. The display is part of an Agnews exhibition titled “Dürer and his Time,” which is centered around the recently discovered drawing. It will be held at the Colnaghi gallery, and coincides with Master Drawings — an annual week-long event that includes pop-up exhibitions by notable art dealers from Europe, and presentations by top New York specialists in private gallery settings, according to the event website.
The Agnews Gallery New York exhibition aims to look at “how this Renaissance artist was one of the pioneers of crafting a self-fashioned identity,” according to an emailed statement from the gallery. Other works by Dürer (1471-1528) will also be displayed to “contextualize the layers of the artist’s brand and status during his lifetime,” the statement said. The exhibition will feature a copper engraving plate portrait of Philipp Melanchthon — a loan from the Friedenstein Palace in Germany — and the only known copper engraving plate by Dürer still in existence.
Dürer is recognized “not only as the greatest German artist of his age, but also as one of the most important artists and intellectuals of the European Renaissance,” the gallery said, noting that his works were celebrated by princes and emperors, and he was held in “unrivaled esteem” by fellow artists.
The newly rediscovered drawing has been of “serious interest” from major museums and important private collectors from around the world, Agnews Gallery director Anthony Critchton-Stuart said in an email to the Globe. Works by Dürer only appear on the open market with “extreme rarity,” according to the gallery statement. The last time a Dürer drawing was for sale was in 1978 when it sold for approximately $1.3 million.
“No other works by the artist of this importance have come to the market since and it remains to this day the highest price for Dürer at auction,” the Agnews Gallery said.
The record price for a northern Renaissance work sold at auction was Raphael’s “Head of a Muse,” which sold for $47.5 million in 2009. Some art historians believe “The Virgin and Child” could fetch a record sum. The drawing was the subject of a roundtable discussion in December at the British Museum, where it was examined by scholars in the field with other works by Dürer.
The New York exhibition is organized with the help of Giulia Bartrum, a leading authority on Dürer, according to Agnews.