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Garage Sale-Savvy Gallerist Finds Raphael

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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Antiques Roadshow has nothing on New York gallerist Ira Spanierman.

At a Sotheby's auction preview in 1968, Spanierman spied a filthy old portrait attributed to an unknown Italian artist hanging high upon the wall. It was in rough condition, but the asking price was a mere $325. Today the piece goes on the auction block at Christie's International in London with an estimated top selling price of $30 million dollars. The subject in the portrait turned out to be Florentine capo Lorenzo de Medici. The "unknown" artist turned out to be none other than Raphael.

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"This is the only opportunity anybody will ever have to buy anything of this nature," Spanierman told of the sale. "I've loved having it, but it's time for me to sell it." As it is considered a "lost work" from 1518, the piece is sure to fetch top dollar, most likely from a private collector. Either way, though, Spanierman has secured an undisclosed fee from Christie's, regardless of the final sale price. "In terms of what's happening in the art world right now that's not a lot of money," remarks Spanierman. "If a trophy collector, as it were, wanted a great picture, this is cheap!" Next to a diamond encrusted skull, perhaps.



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