Tajan, the well-known French auction house announced the extraordinary discovery, the first in over fifteen years, of an exceptional work by the Italian Master Leonardo da Vinci. In the Codex Atlanticus, a list compiled by Leonardo, eight Saint Sebastians are mentioned. The auction house believes that the drawing representing “The Martyred Saint Sebastian” belongs to this illustrious group.
In her landmark 2003 exhibition catalogue, Dr. Carmen C. Bambach, Curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, reconstructed how the Saint Sebastians listed in the Codex Atlanticus relate to an unexecuted or lost votive painting of the martyred saint by Leonardo. According to the statement from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “In the scholarly opinion of Carmen C. Bambach, our expert on the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, this is an exciting new discovery of an authentic double-sided sheet by the master (1452-1519), representing on the recto the full figure of the martyred Saint Sebastian tied to a tree in a landscape, and on the verso, notes and diagrams about light and shadow, which relate to Leonardo’s study of optics. Dr. Bambach published the related drawings of Saint Sebastian in Hamburg and Bayonne in the 2003 catalogue accompanying her exhibition Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman at The Met. In a soon-to-be-published article, Dr. Bambach will discuss the complex scientific material, related works of art, and larger implications of this discovery, along with new research.”
Thaddée Prate, director of the Old Master department at Tajan recalls the time when he first saw the drawing: “I had a sense that it was an interesting 16th-century drawing that required more work”. He asked for a second opinion from Patrick de Bayser, an expert in old master drawings. Mr. de Bayser discovered two smaller scientific drawings on the back of the sheet. These diagrammatic studies of candlelight were accompanied by notes written in a minute, Italian Renaissance right-to-left hand (Leonardo was left-handed).
The two men looked at each other. “I said, ‘You can’t believe this is by Leonardo?’” Mr. Prate recalls. “But that would have been so incredible.”
Tajan reached out to New York for a third, definitive view from Carmen C. Bambach, a curator of Italian and Spanish drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “The attribution is quite incontestable,” Dr. Bambach said “What we have here is an open-and-shut case. It’s an exciting discovery.”
The “discovery” of Leonardo is a confirmation of Tajan’s special place in the art world. Tajan’s interesting position comes from being first a high end boutique auction house and second, a creative trendsetter. As a high end boutique auction house, we blend the highest level of operational standards with a highly personalized service and strict attention to details. This is precisely what led us to this very joyous moment after months of intense work by my team which collaborated step by step with the necessary French and worldwide experts while gaining the total confidence of the owner of this masterpiece. As a trendsetter, Tajan has become during the recent years a rich source to discover local and international emerging talent and rediscover overlooked or forgotten artistic movements and individual artists. I am extremely proud of my innovative team which has become family over the last twelve years.