Paris Auction House Discovers a Rare Leonardo da Vinci Drawing

January 14, 2017 5:00 am
Rare Leonardo da Vinci Drawing Discovered
(Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)
Rare Leonardo da Vinci Discovery
A member of Paris auctioneer Tajan displays a previously undiscovered drawing by Leonardo da Vinci at the auction house in Paris on December 13, 2016. The rare drawing is valued at around $16 million (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)


Leonardo da Vinci liked to write to-do lists. And in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, he published the largest one of all—the Codex Atlanticus, a series of drawings and writings comprised in a 12-volume set. In it, he mentions drawing eight portraits of St. Sebastian—and one of them was just discovered by Paris auction house Tajan.

The first discovery of its kind in 15 years, the da Vinci was brought in by a retired doctor, who was looking for information on his father’s collection, per The New York Times. The drawing in question was first viewed by Thaddée Prate, director of the Old Master department at Tajan, who on first look, thought it was “… an interesting 16th-century drawing that required more work.”

Rare Leonardo da Vinci Drawing Discovered
A view of the back of the drawing (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)


He got a second opinion from Old Master expert and independent appraiser Patrick de Bayser, who noted two scientific drawings on the back, along with Italian writing that appeared to be written by a left-handed person (da Vinci was one such person). The two suspected they might have a da Vinci on their hands, but reached out to Dr. Carmen C. Bambach, a curator in the Drawings and Prints department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for a third opinion. She responded that the drawing was authentic, and the Met released this statement:

“[This] is an exciting new discovery of an authentic double-sided sheet by the master (1452-1519), representing on the [front] the full figure of the martyred Saint Sebastian tied to a tree in a landscape, and on the [back], notes and diagrams about light and shadow, which relate to Leonardo’s study of optics.”

The piece itself is just 7 1/2 inches by 5 inches, and Tajan estimates it to be worth $15.8 million. The auction house has yet to announce plans to sell it.

Visit Tajan’s website for all the latest updates.

RealClearLife Staff

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.