Raphael's Head of an Apostle, a preparatory drawing for the Transfiguration, is coming to a Sotheby's auction in December.
Valued at £10m-15m, the c.1519-20 black chalk drawing on paper is a stunning example of the Renaissance painter's methods, and presents an extremely rare opportunity for collectors to own one of his works, as the majority reside in museums.
The Transfiguration, which today can be seen at Rome's Vatican Museum, is widely held as Raphael's greatest late work, having been commissioned in 1516, just four years before his death.
Head of an Apostle is one of 17 known drawings he produced for the Transfiguration, with nine currently residing in Madrid's Prado Museum.
We anticipate that it could well surpass its estimate, considering a similar black chalk work by Raphael, Head of a Muse, made £29.2m at Christie's in 2009, achieving an auction record for the artist, as well as any paper work.
Gregory Rubinstein, Sotheby's head of old master drawings, remarked: "It is one of the greatest privileges of my career to be handling the sale of a drawing of such extraordinary importance - and of such incredible power and beauty too.
"These rare moments, over the centuries, define the history of the drawings market."
The work comes from the impoverished Chatsworth estate in Derbyshire, UK, having been bought by the Devonshire family, which owns the estate, more than 300 years ago.
The family was forced to sell another Raphael chalk drawing, Head and Hand of an Apostle, for £5.3m in 1984, setting a record at the time for an auctioned old master drawing.
The December 4 auction in London will also feature two 15th century illuminated manuscripts from Flanders, which have high estimates of £6m and £5m, respectively.