A terracotta roundel by Andrea della Robbia (1435-1525) is among the most intriguing pieces on offer in Sotheby’s Exceptional sale.
The work, depicting a laureate, was created for the near mythical palace of Poggio Reale – intended to be the summer home of the king of Naples.
Work began in 1487 and continued for the next seven years.
The terracotta roundel retains its original colour
However, in 1494 Charles VIII’s marauding French army passed through and ransacked the unfinished palace.
In the intervening centuries the region was ravaged by war and eventually all trace of the palace was gone.
William Russell Jr, head of Christie’s decorative arts department, explains: “It never really existed, except in myth.
“For 500 years people have written about it — its great treasures and glorious gardens.
“Miraculously, of all the things to survive, it is something as fragile as this della Robbia terracotta.”
Two other della Robbia roundels made for Poggia Reale have survived, although their condition is nowhere near as good.
Russell Jr continued: “Somewhere between 1494 and 1902, someone really looked after this.
“We’re really lucky. If you look at the two other examples to survive, they’re badly damaged, whereas this example is in almost perfect condition.”
The lot is expected to make $200,000-400,000.
The 5,000-year-old Guennol Stargazer will also appear in the sale.
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