Legal battle over the sale of a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

Legal battle over the sale of a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci
Legal battle over the sale of a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

Discovered in 2016, the drawing in brown ink by the great Italian master, entitled Study for a Saint Sebastian in a Landscape, is estimated at 15 million euros.

It’s a drawing no bigger than a pocket square, but worth millions of dollars. Since its discovery in 2016, the sale of a brown ink study attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, depicting the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, has been the subject of a furious battle.

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For nearly fifty-seven years, the masterpiece, entitled Study for a Saint Sebastian in a Landscape, slept in a drawing board, without anyone suspecting the identity of its author.

Its owner, Jean B., a retired general practitioner, had received it as a gift from his father in 1959, among a dozen other drawings and engravings, for having passed the hospital externship competition. from Paris.

But the young man, more fond of rock than of the fine arts, had relegated him to a corner and forgotten. Until, thanks to a move in 2016, he decided to entrust the cardboard to the Tajan auction house for expertise.

A national treasure

Quickly spotted by Thaddée Prate, the director of the department of old paintings of Tajan, the drawing is first estimated between 20,000 to 30,000 euros.

Then the expert Patrick de Bayser, requested by the establishment, concludes that the study is by the hand of Leonardo da Vinci, an opinion confirmed by the greatest specialist in the drawings of the Renaissance master, Carmen C. Bambach, of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Read also :Why Leonardo da Vinci’s recovered drawing is a national treasure

The value of the work of art immediately exploded to reach a range of 8 to 12 million euros. Quickly, and discreetly, it was classified as a national treasure, a procedure which made it possible to prohibit its export and left thirty months for the Ministry of Culture to acquire it for the benefit of the Louvre museum.


In July 2019, the ministry made an offer of 10 million euros to Jean B., who refused. And for good reason, a new expertise now assesses the masterpiece at 15 million euros. Without being able to collect this sum, the State renounces the acquisition.

From then on, a standoff began.

To the owner, now in his eighties, who is requesting an export certificate to be able to sell the design abroad, the Ministry of Culture opposes a new refusal, arguing that the design could in fact have been stolen and that a complaint in this regard. meaning was filed at the end of 2020.

Read also :A Salvator Mundi stolen from Leonardo da Vinci’s school was found in a Neapolitan

“The way Roselyne Bachelot handled this case is catastrophic,” lashed out Olivier Baratelli, who defends Dr. B.

The lawyer summoned before the Paris court the Minister of Culture and the deputy to the deputy director of the collections of the ministry, Claire Chastanier, to force them to issue the export certificate. The hearing before the civil judge, postponed for the first time, is to be held Wednesday.

A Ministry of Culture worthy of the name would have made sure that the French State bought such a drawing. Instead, it’s mediocrity and petty manners. The French state only has its heritage and its culture, and is no longer even capable of preserving it.

Mr. Olivier Baratelli, lawyer for Dr. Jean B.

Contacted by AFP, the Ministry of Culture did not respond.

At the same time, Dr Jean B. scrapes with Tajan. After reading an article in Le Figaro which announced that the auction house had decided to put the drawing up for auction before the thirty-month deadline expired, without consulting it and according to the daily in agreement with the Louvre, he decided to revoke the mandate he had granted him.

Slanderous denunciation

A decision little tasted by Tajan: the house claims 2 million euros for the forfeit and the costs incurred.

“Money drives you crazy!” The Tajan house was intoxicated with the money, ”Mr. Baratelli said angry. “Not only did she behave badly towards Dr Jean B., but when he discovered this betrayal, Tajan refused to return Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing to her.”

Faced with what he describes as “blackmail”, “breach of trust” and “attempted extortion”, the lawyer cited the company and its president, Rodica Seward, before the Paris Criminal Court.

This procedure makes it possible to appeal directly to the court without going through a criminal investigation, with the plaintiffs having to collect and present the evidence at the hearing. This is to be held in December.

The auction house, defended by Mr. Basile Ader, immediately responded with a defamatory lawsuit.

“This drawing was discovered, authenticated, certified and promoted by the work of Tajan”, retorts the house. “As a result of this rupture, Tajan asks that it be reimbursed for the costs incurred and paid the usual forfeit for all the work done on this drawing since its filing on March 15, 2016”.

Tajan also observes that Jean B. had already been dismissed in 2020 of an action before the summary judge to recover his drawing and qualifies as “imaginary offenses” the complaints mentioned in his quote. The fight to acquire the few rare works of Leonardo Da Vinci is far from over!

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