The sale at Sotheby’s yesterday of the Duke of Devonshire’s three Renaissance masterworks, included a drawing by Raphael, Auxiliary cartoon for the Head of a Young Apostle, 1519-20, which sold for £29.7m, an auction record for the artist in sterling terms and double pre-sale expectations.. Only two Raphaels of similar importance have appeared on the market in the past 50 years and both set records at the time. ‘It is one of the greatest privileges of my career to be handling the sale of a drawing of such extraordinary importance, and of such incredible power and beauty, too,’ says Gregory Rubinstein, Sotheby’s worldwide head of Old Master drawings. ‘These rare moments, over the centuries, define the history of the drawings market.’

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Executed in black chalk, Head of an Apostle is a working auxiliary cartoon for a significant figure in Transfiguration, recently described by scholars as ‘one of the most important of all Renaissance paintings’. When Raphael died, aged 37, he was laid out in state in his studio with the painting, which is now in the Vatican Museum, Rome, hanging at his head. Transfiguration was commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici in about 1516 and is the Raphael painting from which the most studies survive.

Also in the sale of Old Masters were two 15th-century illuminated manuscripts, produced in Flanders, from the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth. Most of the drawings in the Chatsworth Collection were acquired by the 2nd Duke (1670/1-1729); only two other British collections (the Ashmolean and the British Museum) can boast more Raphael drawings than the 14, which include two other studies for Transfiguration, that remain at Chatsworth (01246 565300; www.chatsworth.org). ‘We are very fortunate to have such extraordinary depth in so many areas,’ says the present Duke of Devonshire. ‘The sale of these works which our family has long cared for will now benefit the long-term future of Chatsworth.’

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