Da Vinci Denied


It was just a few weeks ago that Fine Art Today reported on the magnificent discovery of an authenticated drawing of Saint Sebastian by Renaissance icon Leonardo da Vinci. News surrounding the discovery keeps coming with this shocking denial.

On December 12, major Paris-based auction house Tajan announced that a retired doctor recently brought them a drawing that depicts Saint Sebastian bound to a tree that was definitively authenticated as by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci (1478-1519). The value of the work was estimated around $16 million, and it was the first discovery of its kind in nearly two decades. However, sale of the prized drawing was awaiting approval from the French government, which has since blocked its sale.

Deeming the drawing a “French National Treasure,” France now has 30 months to raise the $16 million price tag. According to ArtDaily, the French government had a “right of pre-emption,” under which it has 30 months to purchase items that officials believe should remain in the country.

Excerpt from Fine Art Today’s December 15 article:

“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 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 told 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.

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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.



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