Wait ’till You See What Could Bring a Retired Doctor $16 Million

Leonardo da Vinci, “Saint Sebastian Bound to a Tree (detail),” circa 1481-1482, ink on paper, 7 1/2 x 5 in. (c) Ed Alcock, The New York Times 2016

Don’t you love hearing about unbelievable fine art discoveries? The answer to that question will be an emphatic “Yes!” after you read about this amazing story breaking out of France this week.

Major Paris-based auction house Tajan announced on Monday, December 12, that a retired doctor recently brought them a drawing that depicts Saint Sebastian bound to a tree — now authenticated as by Leonardo da Vinci (1478-1519). If the French government approves the sale of the drawing, slated for the summer of 2017, the drawing could fetch in excess of $16 million. The discovery is the first of its kind in nearly two decades.

It is a familiar subject for both Da Vinci and his connoisseurs, and there survive several works by the Renaissance master depicting Saint Sebastian. The drawing also includes, on its back, optical studies in light and shadow and text written in Leonardo’s famed cryptic mirror style. Via The Art Newspaper, “The artist referred to eight drawings of the saint in his tome of drawings, texts and scientific studies, the Codex Atlanticus, and this sheet is believed to be among them — and is the one of only three that have been located to date.”

Tajan has reported that the anonymous owner brought the drawings to them in March 2016 along with a group of about 13 other unframed drawings that had been collected by his father. The auction house’s director of Old Master paintings, Thaddée Prate, was struck by the image of Saint Sebastian and sought further counsel from their drawings expert Patrick de Bayser and, later, Carmen C. Bambach, a curator of Spanish and Italian drawings at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. As Bambach remarked to the New York Times, the drawing was “quite incontestable” and “an open-and-shut case.” She added, “My heart will always pound when I think about this drawing.”

To learn more, visit The New York Times.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

Previous articleRunaway Sales for Old Masters
Next articleYou Can’t Miss This January Event in NYC
Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here