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Brussels showing for Rubens masterpiece expected to fetch more than €20 million

16:00 23/02/2023

A masterpiece by painter Peter Paul Rubens that is currently on display in Brussels is expected to fetch more than €20 million in a New York City auction later this year.

The painting, Portrait of a Man as the God Mars, was once the most expensive work from the Flemish master ever sold at auction. It was sold for $8.2m at the famous Sotheby’s New York auction house in 2000.

It is now estimated to be valued between $20 and $30 million, or roughly €18 to €28 million.

The work has not been on the market since 2002, although it was displayed for the public at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for several years and is now back in its birthplace of Belgium for a time.

Sotheby's Brussels location on Avenue Louise will showcase the painting ahead of the auction.

Rubens is said to have painted the work around 1620 in Belgium. It depicts an unidentified man wearing a lion’s cloak, dolphin-headed helmet and a coat of arms.

Rubens was known for his love of myths and legends and produced many works themed around classical antiquity after travelling to Italy at the age of 23.

The dolphin-headed helmet worn by the painting’s subject is said to have been owned by Rubens himself.

“In this painting we see how Rubens combines his profound knowledge of classical literature and art with Flemish directness and a strong nod to Titian and the Italian Renaissance,” said Christopher Apostle, Sotheby’s head of old master paintings in New York.

“In this way, he fundamentally rewrites the language of 17th-century Flemish painting.”

Part of the Fisch David Collection since 2002, the portrait will now be a highlight of the Modern Evening Sale in New York, which will otherwise feature more modern works.

Written by Helen Lyons