Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 17:37 UK

Raphael masterpiece under hammer

Head of a Muse
The painting is expected to fetch between 12m - 16m

A drawing by Raphael is expected to fetch up to £16 million when it is auctioned for the first time in more than 150 years in December.

Head of a Muse was drawn by the artist as one of a series of four frescoes in the Vatican, which was commissioned by Pope Julius II.

The series, created between 1508 and 1511, is considered to be Raphael's greatest masterpiece.

The drawing will go under the hammer at Christie's in London on 8 December.

Benjamin Peronnet, director and international head of Old Master and 19th century drawings at Christie's said: "The drawing is not only a work of genius in its own right but is also related to one of the artist's great frescoes in the Vatican."

Raffaello Sanzio, known as Raphael, lived in Florence from 1504 to 1508 where he was summoned to Rome and commissioned to paint frescoes in one of the Papal rooms in the Vatican.

The artist's "meticulous" preparation for a fresco would have seen him sprinkle a dust of black chalk through pricked outlines of the original drawn cartoon onto a fresh sheet of paper, leaving dotted lines which can be seen in the drawing up for sale.

The current record price for a Raphael work is £18.5m (including auction house fees) for Portrait of Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Urbino which sold at Christie's in 2007.

Christie's Old Masters and 19th Century Art sale also includes Rembrandt's Portrait of a man, half-length, with his arms akimbo - which has been unseen in public for almost 40 years - and is expected to fetch between £18m - £25m.

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