How the Royal Academy came close to selling its greatest treasure: Michelangelo’s Taddei Tondo. In the late 1970s the Royal Academy considered selling off its Michelangelo Taddei Tondo, which was then valued at £6m—well over twice what any work of art had ever fetched at auction. The record was held by Velázquez’s Portrait of Juan de Pareja (around 1650), which had been bought by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for £2.3m in 1971. The academy valued its entire collection in 1977 for a total of £7.5m.
The Michelangelo was then worth £5m, and its other 56 sculptures a total of just under £70,000. Constable’s landscape painting The Leaping Horse (1825), its second most valuable item, was valued at £800,000. By the following year, the Michelangelo valuation had been increased to £6m. The academy was suffering serious financial problems at this time, and was seeking government support. In February 1978 the Queen, as the institution’s formal patron, was warned: “We could sell possessions, but this is a slippery slope. The only one which might solve the problem [the tondo] is looked upon by many as a national treasure.” …read more
Image |Keystone Pictures USA | Alamy Stock Photo | Michelangelo’s Taddei Tondo at the Royal Academy in the 1970s