Head of a Woman by Orazio Gentileschi, which once hung outside the bedroom of King Charles I at Whitehall Palace in London, is a highlight Sotheby’s sale in New York on January 25. It was sold off after his execution as his famous art collection was scattered across Europe and comes to auction now for the first time in 380 years. In the interim the work, described as “Naked Woman” in the original inventory which detailed “the Picture of a woeman with her left breast naked her right breast covered with a part of her Smock”, has been altered. The bottom of the canvas has been removed, possibly by a prudish owner. It dates from the early 1630’s and is one of two surviving works by the artist on panel.
The impressive art collection of King Charles I was sold off by Parliament after his execution in 1649 to pay the late king’s debts. More than 1,300 paintings were consigned by Cromwell to Somerset House, where they were offered to the public. The sale has gone down in history both as a tragic loss of national art and for its odd detail, with a Titian painting famously given to a plumber to pay his bill. Estimated at $2-3 million the proceeds of the sale will in part benefit the department of European Painting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
UPDATE: This sold for $1,812,500