A lost drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci which was found among a book of unsigned sketches in Paris could be sold for as much as £53million.
The drawing, which is believed to date from between 1482 and 1489, was discovered in March last year in a portfolio of drawings by a retired French doctor.
The lost two-sided drawing, which the doctor inherited from his father, was taken into a Paris auction house.
It depicts the martyred Saint Sebastian tied to the trunk of a tree and is inscribed ‘Michelange’ (Michelangelo) on the mount.
On the back of the 7ins by 5.5ins sheet there are two smaller scientific drawings accompanied by notes.
Saint Sebastian is often depicted in art as being tied to a tree with arrows shot through him, even though he was said to have been saved from the post, before later being clubbed to death for warning Emperor Diocletian about his sins.
One side of the 7ins by 5.5ins sheet depicts the martyred Saint Sebastian tied to the trunk of a tree with the inscription ‘Michelange’ (Michelangelo) on the mount
In 2016 the Parisian auction house, Tajan, valued the discovery at between 15 million and 20 million euros, but after the last year’s sale of Da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ painting for $450.3million (£350million), the value of his work is being reassessed.
Rodica Seward, chairman of Tajan, said he is hoping to get a price between 30 million and 60 million euros (£53m) for the drawing.
Christie’s in New York sold the much-restored panel masterpiece entitled ‘Salvator Mundi’ in November 2017, but scholars have become concerned it has been ‘lost’ as it has not been seen in public since Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ‘acquired’ it.
The price, paid by the Saudi royal family on behalf of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, was the highest for any work of art ever offered at auction.
Tajan, previously attempted to sell the drawing at auction last year, but were denied an export licence by the French government who gave it ‘national treasure’ status.
According to rules protecting French heritage, a national museum has 30 months to acquire the drawing, although they would be required to pay its market value.
However, this deadline will elapse in June next year, at which point the drawing can be sold on the open market.
The back of the double-sided sketch shows small scientific drawings accompanied by notes
Thaddee Prate, director of the old masters department at Tajan, said: ‘The drawing was discovered in 2016 when a retired French doctor came into our Paris auction house with some drawings in a portfolio he had inherited from his father.
‘There was one drawing which immediately was of great interest so I consulted with expert Patrick de Bayser.
‘The first thing we noticed was that the drawing was done by a left handed artist. With Da Vinci this was the case but there are not so many left handed artists.
‘Also, the movement you see in pictures, with the many different positions for the arms and legs, was typical Da Vinci.
‘We wanted to authenticate the drawing further so we took it to Dr Carmen Bambach, curator at the New York Metropolitan Museum, and she immediately recognised it was a Da Vinci drawing.
‘She was shocked that a Da Vinci could just appear from nowhere.’
Italian artist, architect, engineer and scientist Leonardo da Vinci who was born in 1452 and died in 1519
Da Vinci, who was born in 1452 and died in 1519, was an Italian painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect and engineer whose paintings of His Last Supper and Mona Lisa are among the most popular and influential paintings of the Renaissance.
It is believed that this drawing is one of eight he did of St Sebastian, with two other known versions residing in museums in Bayonne in south west France and Hamburg, Germany.
Tajan is proceeding with the sale as they have been given assurances the drawing will be allowed to leave the country if a museum is not successful in the bidding process.
Prate added: ‘We initially applied for an export licence to sell the drawing but this was denied as the French government listed it as a national treasure.
‘This allowed a French museum to buy it within 30 months but they must pay the market value of the drawing.
The painting by Leonardo da Vinci entitled ‘Salvator Mundi’ before it was auctioned in New York in November last year
‘However, we’ve now received assurances we can sell the drawing next June when that time period has elapsed.
‘A French museum will still be able to bid for it then but if they are unsuccessful we will be granted an export licence for it to leave the country.
‘The sale of this drawing will be a historic event on the global art market.
‘It will constitute a lifetime opportunity for important institutions, passionate art lovers and dedicated collectors to acquire a rare masterpiece of the most important artist in history.’
The sale, which is to takes place on June 19 next year, will come almost 500 years after da Vinci died, in May 1519, at Amboise, France.