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Raphael drawing smashes record at auction

16:23 Thu Dec 6 2012
AAP

A drawing by Italian Renaissance master Raphael has fetched STG29.7 million ($A46.01 million) at a London sale, a record for any work on paper sold at auction.

Following a battle between four bidders on Wednesday, the hammer eventually came down at Sotheby's auction house on a bid cast by telephone, making "Head of an Apostle" (c.1519-20) the second most expensive Old Master artwork.

"If you are lucky, at some point in your career a work like this comes along," said Gregory Rubinstein, Worldwide Head of Old Master Drawings at Sotheby's.

"A number of the world's greatest collectors stepped up tonight in recognition of the genius of Raphael and the extraordinary beauty of this drawing with its exceptional provenance."

The drawing, executed in black chalk, depicts one of the key figures in Raphael's "Transfiguration", one of the most important Renaissance paintings.

The painting was hanged at the artist's head when his body was laid out in his studio following his death in Rome in 1520, aged 37.

The winning bid smashed the pre-sale estimate of STG10-15 million.