A Leonardo da Vinci drawing of a bear’s head is set to be sold for up to £12m at auction, in what experts are calling the sale of “one of the most important works from the Renaissance still in private hands”.
The picture, titled “Head of a Bear”, is being sold in London by the Christie’s auction house, after it has been on display in New York and Hong Kong.
It is expected to fetch between £8m and £12m, according to Christie’s, and will lead the company’s Exceptional Sale on 8 July.
Ben Hall, old master paintings chairman at Christie’s New York, said the drawing, which measures just 7cm squared, has been owned by “some of the most distinguished collectors in the field of old masters across many centuries”. Its current owner has held the piece since 2008.
“It has been admired around the world whilst shown by prestigious museums and Christie’s is honoured to bring this Leonardo to the market this season,” Mr Hall added.
“Head of a Bear”, which depicts a sketch of a bear’s head, is a silverpoint drawing on pale pink-beige paper. Da Vinci’s signature also sits in the bottom left-hand corner.
It has previously been on display at museums including London’s National Gallery, where it was shown in 2011 and 2012 as part of an exhibition showcasing Da Vinci’s work.
Christie’s, who said the painting is one of less than eight surviving drawings by Da Vinci still in private hands outside of the British Royal Collection and the Devonshire Collections at Chatsworth, think its sale could beat that of the 2001 auction of Da Vinci’s “Horse and Rider” which went for £8.1m.
“I have every reason to believe we will achieve a new record in July for ‘Head of a Bear’, one of the last drawings by Leonardo that can be expected to come onto the market,” Stijn Alsteens, an international head of department at Christie’s Paris, said in a statement.
Should the drawing sell for £12m, it would not be the first time a Da Vinci sale has broken auction records.
In 2017 his “Salvator Mundi” sold at Christie’s New York for $450m, the equivalent of around £322m today – despite questions over its authenticity.
The depiction of Christ was purchased by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud, the Saudi minister of culture, but it has since been speculated that he was bidding on behalf of his close ally, Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Da Vinci’s other works, such as the Mona Lisa which sits in Paris’ Louvre Museum, are considered priceless.
“Head of a Bear” will be shown in London from 1 to 6 June before it is sold on 8 July.
Additional reporting by agencies
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