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Rare portrait by Raphael is sold at Christie's auction

A painting by Italian Renaissance artist Raphael not seen for more than 40 years was sold at auction Thursday for 18.5 million pounds (US$37.2 million, 27.4 million EUR).

The portrait of Lorenzo de' Medici, a member of Florence, Italy's ruling family, was sold after being kept for nearly half a century in the private collection of an American art dealer.

Auctioneers at Christie's in London had expected the painting to sell for between 10 million pounds (US$20 million, 15 million EUR) and 15 million pounds (US$30 million, 23 million EUR) pounds.

The portrait was sold to a private collector biding on the telephone.

"There are only a few Raphael paintings that remain in private hands," Christie's spokesman Matthew Paton said. "We probably won't have another Raphael again for a lifetime."

Completed in 1518, two years before Raphael's death, the painting features a finely dressed Lorenzo de' Medici in gold and red brocade with delicate fur trim in front of a dark green background.

Painted on canvas - something Raphael rarely did because he preferred to paint on panels - the portrait is in superb condition, Paton said.