Written by Scott Reyburn
A tiny Leonardo da Vinci sketch offered Thursday at Christie’s for 8.9 million kilos with charges, or about $12.2 million, a document value for a Leonardo drawing at public sale.
Leonardo’s delicate silverpoint research “Head of a Bear,” measuring slightly below 3 inches by 3 inches, and thought thus far from the early 1480s, was included in Christie’s summer season “Exceptional Sale” of high-value historic works of artwork assembled from a vary of amassing classes.
Estimated to promote for 8 million kilos to 12 million kilos, or $11 million to $16.5 million, the drawing was purchased by a single bid from an as-yet-unidentified purchaser in the public sale room. There was no competitors from any phone or web bidders. The remaining value of $12.2 million was marginally higher than the $11.5 million given in 2001 for Leonardo’s barely bigger silverpoint research “Horse and rider,” the earlier public sale excessive for a drawing by the artist.
“These prices are absurd,” mentioned Jean-Luc Baroni, a seller in museum-quality previous grasp drawings, based mostly in London and Paris. Baroni mentioned that if he had been requested to cost the work, he would have valued it at about $2 million. “You’re buying a name. It’s nothing to do with the love of drawings.”
“OK, it’s a Leonardo. But it’s so tiny,” he mentioned. “It’s a postage stamp.”
The drawing might need been small — it’s about the size of a commonplace sq. Post-it word — however the sale Thursday was seen by many consultants as probably the final alternative to purchase an unique Leonardo drawing from a non-public assortment.
Prices for nearly any work related to this most well-known of Italian Renaissance artists have soared since the astounding $450.3 million given in 2017 for the “Salvator Mundi.” In June, Christie’s offered a Seventeenth-century copy of the “Mona Lisa” for 2.9 million euros, or about $3.4 million. On Thursday, simply hours earlier than Christie’s sale of the drawing, Sotheby’s offered what might be a Twentieth-century copy of the “Mona Lisa” for 378,000 kilos at a day public sale of previous masters. It had been estimated at 8,000-12,000 kilos.
“Leonardo is the magic name,” mentioned Anthony Crichton-Stuart, director of the London dealership Agnews, who had been following Sotheby’s day sale.
Leonardo was recognized to create “composite” animals in his artwork by combining parts from completely different species. Scholars have related the drawing of a bear that offered Thursday with the famously animated head of an ermine in Leonardo’s celebrated “Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani,” courting from about 1490, in the National Museum in Krakow, Poland.
“It was a very beautiful, very poetic drawing,” mentioned Stephen Ongpin, a specialist seller in previous grasp drawings, based mostly in London. “What I liked was the tenderness of the depiction. It’s not like a scientific drawing. But it was small.” Ongpin mentioned that he thought Christie’s valuation had been “correct,” on condition that the estimate mirrored a document value for a Leonardo drawing set 20 years in the past.
Ongpin and different sellers recognized Christie’s nameless vendor as American billionaire Thomas S. Kaplan, finest recognized for his touring assortment of work by Rembrandt. Kaplan acquired the drawing from London seller Johnny van Haeften in 2008, as indicated in Christie’s cataloging. Kaplan declined to substantiate that his was the “family trust” making the sale.
Ongpin mentioned that Christie’s had been wanting for the “Salvator Mundi effect” by providing the drawing in its night “Exceptional Sale,” which appeals to rich collectors of trophy objects, fairly than at a specialist previous masters public sale.
“There are one or two private collectors and one or two museums who could have bought a drawing like this,” Ongpin mentioned. “But Christie’s were also looking for a buyer who doesn’t collect drawings and would be entranced by the name.”
The sale raised questions on the future of one other drawing by the Renaissance grasp, that one owned by a retired physician in France.
The former physician, an octogenarian recognized in authorized paperwork merely as Jean B., is hoping so as to add the work to the small listing of Leonardo drawings from non-public collections supplied on the open market.
Back in 2016, Paris auctioneers Tajan recognized a double-sided pen-and-ink drawing that the physician owned as a main Leonardo discovery. Widely accepted as a Leonardo by specialist students, the 7 1/2-by-5-inch sheet, displaying the martyrdom of St. Sebastian on one aspect and scientific sketches on the different, was declared a “national treasure” by the French state, which was permitted to supply to purchase it at a truthful market value throughout a 30-month interval throughout which its export was banned.
But the sensational “Salvator Mundi” sale in 2017 made the proprietor of the drawing revise his expectations, in line with Rodica Seward, proprietor of Tajan.
Seward mentioned that the proprietor determined to cancel the public sale deliberate for June 2019, at which Tajan hoped to realize a value of at the least 30 million euros, or about $34 million, for the double-sided drawing. That July, the French state supplied to purchase the sheet for 10 million euros, or about $11.8 million, simply earlier than the certificates refusing its export was set to run out. The supply was rejected, and the export ban stays in place after having been renewed.
The drawing has now turn into the topic of a protracted authorized dispute, wherein the proprietor and his household are looking for to elevate the export restriction, which might permit them to promote the Leonardo on the worldwide market. On Wednesday, a Paris court docket adjourned the case till Oct. 27.
“If that little Christie’s drawing is worth $12.2 million, what is the ‘St. Sebastian’ worth?” Seward mentioned in an interview. “Who can buy it in France if you can’t export it? Who knows?” she added. “The drawing is in limbo, and is in our safe.”