- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Masterpiece offered

A rare portrait by Renaissance master Raphael that shows a Florentine ruler from the famed Medici family will be offered at a public auction this summer, Christie’s said yesterday.

Christie’s expects the portrait to fetch a record $19.7 million to $29.5 million. The record price for a Raphael at public auction is $10.4 million for a drawing in black crayon, sold in 1996.

The portrait up for sale is of Lorenzo de’ Medici, duke of Urbino and ruler of Florence from 1513 to 1519.

It shows Medici turning slightly left against a rich forest green background. The duke is dressed in an ornate gold-embroidered costume with red puffy sleeves and gray fur lining around the neck. In his right hand, Medici holds what is probably a portrait miniature showing his future wife.

The canvas measures 38 inches by 31 inches and dates to 1518.

“It’s designed to impress,” said Paul Raison, director of the Old Master paintings at Christie’s. “That was the goal: to show the power, the importance and good looks of the sitter.”

The whereabouts of the portrait of Medici’s wife are unknown.

New York art dealer Ira Spanierman bought the piece at auction for an unknown amount in 1968, when the painting’s origins remained in dispute. Raphael was definitively credited as the artist in 1971.

Christie’s is set to auction the Medici portrait July 5 in London.

Too generous praise?

Michael Moore received a standing — and sustained — ovation following the screening of his latest documentary, “Sicko,” at the Cannes Film Festival Saturday. But some critics suggested that in censuring the U.S. health system, Mr. Moore was overly generous in his praise of other countries, according to IMDb News. At a news conference, Canadian journalists harangued Mr. Moore for, as Toronto Star film critic Peter Howell wrote, making “it seem as if Canada’s socialized medicine is flawless and that Canadians are satisfied with the status quo.” Apparently taken aback by the assault from the Canadian journalists, Mr. Moore said, “You Canadians … used to be so funny. … You gave us all our best comedians. When did you turn so dark?” Later, he suggested that the U.S. ought to adopt the best parts of other countries’ health systems. “We should steal from them,” he said.

ABBA enshrined

The world’s first museum in honor of legendary Swedish disco group ABBA will open its doors in an old customs building in central Stockholm in 2009, organizers announced yesterday.

“ABBA the Museum” will be located in a three-floor, 43,000-square-foot facility on the island of Soedermalm, a short walk from the city center.

The old customs house — Tullhuset — is a protected heritage site on the banks of the Baltic Sea, not far from another popular tourist attraction, the Old Town. Renovation of the building will begin at the end of the year, Stockholm Mayor Kristina Axen-Olin told Agence France-Presse.

All four members of ABBA have given their backing to the project and will provide the museum with clothes, instruments and music.

Despite having broken up a quarter of a century ago, the group still sells between two and three million albums a year. To date, they have sold 360 million records, with only Elvis Presley and the Beatles selling more.

The four ABBA members, Bjoern Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Agnetha Faeltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, enjoyed worldwide successes with tunes such as “Money, Money, Money,” “Waterloo,” “Summer Night City” and “Dancing Queen.”

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from staff and wire reports.

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