A stone’s throw away from his famous masterpieces at the Louvre, a newly discovered drawing by Leonardo da Vinci is causing a stir in Paris. A long-lost 530-year old pen and ink sketch has been attributed to the Renaissance genius, according to auction house Tajan who unveiled it yesterday (Dec. 12). The drawing, with two faint scientific drawings on the reverse, was brought to light by a retired French doctor who found it in his father’s papers.
“My eyes jumped out of their sockets,” said Carmen C. Bambach, a curator of Italian and Spanish drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the New York Times. Bambach, who organized an exhibition about da Vinci’s drawings in 2003, worked with Tajan to authenticate the drawing.
Bambach believes that the 7.5 x 5 inch sketch is one of eight studies of Christian martyr St. Sebastian, that da Vinci listed in his Codex Atlanticus notebooks. “What we have here is an open-and-shut case. It’s an exciting discovery,” Bambach said.
A notoriously slow painter, da Vinci made meticulous studies of the 3rd century saint and gay icon, typically depicted being tied to a tree, post or pillar with his body punctured with arrows. Art historians conjecture that a finished St. Sebastian painting by da Vinci exists but has yet to be “discovered.” Only 15 finished paintings are commonly attributed to the Italian master.
Bambach believes that the newly discovered sketch is the most attractive of the three known St. Sebastian studies. “My heart will always pound when I think about that drawing,” she gushed. “It has so many changes of ideas, so much energy in the way he explores the figure. It has a furious spontaneity.”
Following French laws designed to keep its artistic treasures in the country, the Louvre Museum has the prerogative to propose a “fair international market value” to acquire the drawing.
A Tajan spokesperson confirmed to Quartz that a public auction of Da Vinci’s sketch, valued at $15.8 million, is planned for June 2017.