Lost Da Vinci sketch ‘worth €15 million’ found in France

A lost drawing by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci has been discovered in the papers of a French provincial doctor, a Paris auction house said Tuesday.

Lost Da Vinci sketch 'worth €15 million' found in France
Photos: AFP
The dreamily sensual sketch of Saint Sebastian is thought to be worth around €15 million ($15.8 million) and is an “extraordinary discovery”, the Tajan auction house said.
It has been authenticated by the French specialist Patrick de Bayser and Carmen C. Bambach, curator of Renaissance drawings at New York's Metropolitan Museum and a Da Vinci expert, it added.
The dramatic study, which it is thought Leonardo did in his late twenties or early thirties after he was acquitted of sodomy, is one of eight he is known to have drawn.
The find is extremely rare, with the last Da Vinci drawing that came to market — a sketch of a horse and rider –equalling the world record for an Old Master drawing when it sold for $10 million in 2001.
It was then said to be the most significant drawing by the artist and polymath to be sold at auction since the 1930s.
Mirror writing 
De Bayser told AFP he came across the new sketch, done with a quill pen, during a routine trawl through material sent to the auction house for valuation.
He thought it was possibly by a 15th-century Florentine artist until he turned the torn paper over.
On the back he found a couple of scientific sketches about an optical experiment showing the shadow thrown by a candle and some “spectacular” back-to-front writing.
Da Vinci regularly used the technique so his writing could only be read using a mirror.
De Bayser then noticed that the shading in the drawing of Saint Sebastian, which showed the martyr with wild hair pinned to a tree trunk, went from right to left.
“That meant that it was drawn by a left-handed artist” like Da Vinci.
“I was immediately convinced it was by Leonardo,” he told AFP.
It is now thought the sketch may have come from one of the artist's famous notebooks.
Two other studies of Saint Sebastian by Da Vinci have survived, one at the Bonnat-Helleu Museum in Bayonne in southwestern France and the other at the Kunsthalle in Hamburg.
Carmen C. Bambach believes the newly discovered sketch came from the same period as the Hamburg drawing, from between 1478 and 1483.
The owner of the 19.3 x 13 cm (7.6 x 5 ins) sketch wants to remain anonymous, the auction house said.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles

Rising high beyond an ancient Roman arena in Arles, a tall, twisted tower created by Frank Gehry shimmers in the sun, the latest futuristic addition to this southern French city known for its World Heritage sites.

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles
Gehry's Luma Tower opens in Arles, France. Photo: H I / Pixabay

The tower, which opens to the public on Saturday, is the flagship attraction of a new “creative campus” conceived by the Swiss Luma arts foundation that wants to offer artists a space to create, collaborate and showcase their work.

Gehry, the 92-year-old brain behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, wrapped 11,000 stainless steel panels around his tower above a huge glass round base.

It will house contemporary art exhibitions, a library, and offices, while the Luma Arles campus as a whole will host conferences and live performances.

From a distance, the structure reflects the changing lights of this town that inspired Van Gogh, capturing the whiteness of the limestone Alpilles mountain range nearby which glows a fierce orange when the sun sets.

Mustapha Bouhayati, the head of Luma Arles, says the town is no stranger to
imposing monuments; its ancient Roman arena and theatre have long drawn the

The tower is just the latest addition, he says. “We’re building the heritage of tomorrow.”

Luma Arles spreads out over a huge former industrial wasteland.

Maja Hoffmann, a Swiss patron of the arts who created the foundation, says
the site took seven years to build and many more years to conceive.

Maja Hoffmann, founder and president of the Luma Foundation. Photo: Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Aside from the tower, Luma Arles also has exhibition and performance spaces in former industrial buildings, a phosphorescent skatepark created by South Korean artist Koo Jeong A and a sprawling public park conceived by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.

‘Arles chose me’

The wealthy great-granddaughter of a founder of Swiss drug giant Roche, Hoffmann has for years been involved in the world of contemporary art, like her grandmother before her.

A documentary producer and arts collector, she owns photos by Annie Leibovitz and Diane Arbus and says she hung out with Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York.

Her foundation’s stated aim is to promote artists and their work, with a special interest in environmental issues, human rights, education and culture.

She refuses to answer a question on how much the project in Arles cost. But as to why she chose the 53,000-strong town, Hoffmann responds: “I did not choose Arles, Arles chose me.”

She moved there as a baby when her father Luc Hoffmann, who co-founded WWF,
created a reserve to preserve the biodiversity of the Camargue, a region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhone river delta known for its pink flamingos.

The tower reflects that, with Camargue salt used as mural panels and the
delta’s algae as textile dye.

Hoffmann says she wants her project to attract more visitors in the winter, in a town where nearly a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line.

Some 190 people will be working at the Luma project over the summer, Bouhayati says, adding that Hoffman has created an “ecosystem for creation”.