The sale of the Duke of Devonshire's Raphael drawing at Sotheby's for £29.7 million left the auction room guessing as to the new owner of the classic. It was initially assumed billionaire banker and collector Leon Black, 60, was behind the purchase (he paid £29.2 million for a Raphael at Christie's three years ago and £74 million for Edvard Munch's Scream) though was the winning bidder closer to home? (Chelsea, for example)
Two of the those bidding last night were Luca Baroni and Stephen Ongpin, both of who list Black as a client. A source told The Londoner that Black was using both, though that another bidder was using Natasha Mendelsohn and George Wachter. Intriguingly, Baroni exited short of £20 million while Ongpin carried on bidding until he surrendered at £26.5 million - so who was the winning bidder? Whispers in the art world suggest Chelsea FC owner and oil tycoon Roman Abramovich could be in possession of the drawing. He paid $86 million for a Francis Bacon five years ago and splashed out £50 million on the dismally out of form striker Fernando Torres, so £29.7 million is peanuts. Elsewhere, Russian culture minister Vladamir Medinsky had an official in London last week asking questions about the drawing, according to the Evening Standard.
The 1519 chalk drawing - a study of Raphael's Transfiguration - was part of a private collection held at Chatsworth House, home of the Duke of Devonshire.