A Leonardo Sketch Unveiled

Dabbling in art, especially in drawings and paintings, can sometimes bring you an unexpected fortune. A previously unknown drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci has been valued at £12.6 million after being brought in by a retired French doctor.


Paris auctioneers Tajan said the extraordinary discovery came after the owner pulled out a bundle of unframed sketches. The drawing was nearly missed by Thaddée Prate, director of old masters at the auction house, because he was in a hurry that day. But after consulting other experts he confirmed its identity and it was recently formally unveiled in Paris.

The sketch was one of eight drawings of the martyred Saint Sebastian and marks the first time a Da Vinci work has surfaced since 2000. It sparked shock among art experts who said their eyes jumped out of their sockets when they saw it.

Carmen Bambach, a curator of Italian and Spanish drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York who helped in the confirmation said, ‘The attribution is quite incontestable. What we have here is an open and  shut case. It’s an exciting discovery.’

Mr Prate said the fairy-tale story began in March when the doctor came to see him with the drawings, collected by his bibliophile father. He was going through them when he spotted a pen and ink study of Saint Sebastian tied to a tree, inscribed on the mount ‘Michelange’ (Michelangelo). He said he was in a bit of a rush but was intrigued enough to seek a second opinion from Patrick de Bayser, an independent dealer. Mr de Bayser found some smaller scientific drawings on the back of the sheet with tiny Renaissance style notes.

He also deduced the artist – like Da Vinci – was left-handed. Mr Prate also sought Doctor Bambach’s opinion and she confirmed the drawing was by Da Vinci. She said: ‘My heart will always pound when I think about that drawing. It has so many changes of ideas, so much energy in the way he explores the figure. It has a furious spontaneity.’

Little is known about the owner other than he’s a retired doctor from central France. According to the New York Times, when told of the value the owner said: ‘I’m very pleased. But I have other interests in life other than money.’

The most recent discovery of one of Da Vinci’s work was in 2000 when Sotheby’s in London unearthed a black chalk and pen study of Hercules.

The owner of the sketch apparently was so low key when told of the value , he’s certainly a man after my own heart.

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