The drawing was a sketch from the famous Leonardo da Vinci, and one of the rare sketches from the Italian Renaissance painter to hit the auction floor in the last 20 years.
This small 2.7-by-2.7-inch sketch was auctioned off for $12.2 million to an unknown buyer at Christie’s London on July 8, under the auction house’s “The Exceptional Sale.” Christie’s did not respond to a request for comment from Insider on the identity of the piece’s buyer.
“The drawing was executed in silverpoint on a pale prepared paper, an incisive and demanding technique which Leonardo was taught in his youth by his master Andrea del Verrocchio, the leading artist in Florence at the time,” Christie’s wrote in the piece’s auction listing.
Christie’s said that its small size aside, the sketch is”an excellent demonstration of Leonardo da Vinci’s unique mastery as a draftsman and of his ground-breaking attitude towards the study of nature.”
According to the auction house, “Head of a Bear” is one of fewer than eight drawings by da Vinci that are still in private hands and not in the possession of museums.
The auction house also noted that the piece had a “distinguished provenance,” having previously been in the private collection of British portrait painter and collector of old master drawings, Sir Thomas Lawrence. Interestingly, the sketch was sold at Christie’s way back in 1860 for just 2.50 pounds ($3.40), equivalent to around 311 pounds ($428) today.
“I am delighted that this masterpiece, one of the most important works from the Renaissance still in private hands, has once again been entrusted to Christie’s after its first sale in 1860,” said Ben Hall, chairman of the old master paintings department at Christie’s New York in a press release. “It has been admired around the world whilst shown by prestigious museums, and Christie’s is honored to bring this Leonardo to the market this season.”
Da Vinci’s sketches are rarely ever auctioned. The last one seen at an auction was “Horse and Rider,” a 4.72-by-3.06-inch silverpoint study of a horse between two trees. This piece was sold at Christie’s back in 2001 for $11.2 million.
In 2017, the painter’s “Salvator Mundi” (or “Savior of the World”), a portrait of Jesus Christ created around 1500, was auctioned for $450.3 million at Christie’s in New York City. This is to date the most valuable piece of art ever sold in an auction.