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Long-lost work worth $22.7 million by Leonardo da Vinci found

Painting valued at $22.7 million

PARIS: It is an auctioneer's jackpot dream. A man walks in off the street, opens a portfolio of drawings, and there, mixed with the jumble of routine low-value items, is a long-lost work by Leonardo da Vinci.

And that, more or less, is what happened to Mr Thaddee Prate, director of old master pictures at the Tajan auction house in Paris, which announced yesterday the discovery of a drawing that a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art said was by da Vinci, the Renaissance genius and master draftsman.

Tajan valued the work at 15 million euros (S$22.7 million).

The drawing, of the martyred St Sebastian, is about 19cm by 12.7cm, stood resplendent in an Italian Renaissance gold frame on an old wooden easel.

In March, Mr Prate recalled being "in a bit of a rush" when a retired doctor visited Tajan with 14 unframed drawings that had been collected by his bibliophile father. (The owner's name and residence, somewhere in "central France", remain a closely-guarded secret at his request.)

VIGOROUS

Mr Prate, 55, spotted a vigorous pen-and-ink study of St Sebastian tied to a tree, inscribed on the mount was Michelange (Michelangelo).

My eyes jumped out of their sockets. It's an amazing discovery. ms Carmen C. Bambach

He asked for a second opinion from Mr Patrick de Bayser, an independent dealer and adviser in old master drawings.

Mr de Bayser asked: "Have you seen the drawing is by a left-handed artist? (Leonardo was left-handed.)"

Mr Prate recalled: "I said, 'You can't believe this is by Leonardo?'

"But that would have been so incredible."

DEFINITIVE VIEW

Tajan reached out to New York for a third, definitive view from Ms Carmen C. Bambach, a curator of Italian and Spanish drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"My eyes jumped out of their sockets," Ms Bambach, an organiser of the Met's 2003 exhibition of da Vinci, said in a telephone interview, remembering her first sight of the drawing. "It's an exciting discovery."

She estimated the drawing's date at 1482 and 1485, during the early phase of Leonardo's period in Milan, when he painted his first version of The Virgin Of The Rocks, now in the Louvre, Paris.

This is the first drawing by da Vinci that has been discovered since 2000, when Ms Bambach authenticated a pen-and-ink drawing depicting Hercules holding a club and an executioner sheathing his sword, dated between 1506 and 1508.

Mr Prate said that the drawing's owner told him he was "very pleased" by the discovery, though he had "interests in life other than money". - New York Times, Newser, artnet news

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