Portrait of Isabel de Borbón

The portrait of Isabel de Borbón was due to be offered at Sotheby’s New York on February 1.

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The large full-length portrait of Isabel de Borbón, Queen of Spain, carried an estimate ‘in the region of $35m’. Depicting the first wife of Velázquez’s leading patron, Philip IV of Spain, it shows the sitter in her mid-20s wearing a black court dress.

In a statement Sotheby’s said: “The sellers of Velasquez’s masterpiece Portrait of Isabel de Borbon have reluctantly decided on a temporary pause in the sale process, due to ongoing discussions on their side. Given the excitement with which the Velasquez has been received thus far, both the sellers and Sotheby’s look forward to offering this exceptional painting for sale in the near future.”

When the consignment was announced in November, a spokesperson for Sotheby’s said it had come from a US family trust and “at the moment it just has a house guarantee”. This suggested that the saleroom had given the vendor a guaranteed price but was seeking to offset the risk by arranging an ‘irrevocable bid’ from a third party ahead of the auction (often made in return for a financial incentive if they end up being outbid).

With most Velázquez royal portraits now in museum collections, a consignment such as this was highly rare. Only a handful of autograph paintings by Velázquez have emerged at auction since Christie’s famously sold a portrait Juan de Pareja for £2.3m in London back in 1970.

Becoming the first million-pound picture and nearly tripling the previous record for anything sold at auction at the time, it was knocked down to dealers Wildenstein & Co and is now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The current record for Velázquez stands at £7.5m for a half-length portrait of Saint Rufina that sold at Sotheby’s London in 2007.