Traces of raw wood indicate that this precious work had once a lid, for being used as a portable medallion. This structure is now quite rare, perhaps because such small pictures disappeared. A portrait of Melanchthon made by Holbein around 1530 retains its lid. The portable art was however common during the early Renaissance, including the folding religious triptychs.
The sitter is known: his name was Valerio Belli. He was a medalist and engraver of gems. His face is recognizable, with his Roman nose and broad eyebrows. In his left profile, hair and beard are similar as in a medal self-portrait inscribed Valerius Bellus Vicentinus.
The portrait on wood remained in Vicenza in the families of the medalist and of his executor until 1706. In 1643, the owner indicated a signature F.R. (fecit Raphael) which later disappeared but certainly cannot be a confusion with another painting in that inventory.
The authenticity of that signature by Raphael was not questioned at that time, 97 years after the death of Belli. This family tradition is also supported by an old handwritten inscription on the reverse of the wood indicating Fatto dell'ano 1517 in Rom(.) / Rafael Urbinate. No document proves that Raffaello Sanzio ever met Valerio Belli.
This portrait is considered by experts as an authentic work by Raphael of Urbino while being the only profile portrait by the master. It is estimated $ 2M. I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
SOLD for $ 3.25M including premium