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Anonymous Man Wins Legal Rights To Sell $15.6M Leonardo Da Vinci Drawing

An unnamed French man has won the legal rights to sell an original drawing by the maestro Leonardo da Vinci.

The work in question is a sketch of Saint Sebastian tied on a tree – a rare drawing proven to be drawn by the Italian maestro himself. The backside of the sketch contains notes and diagrams regarding the study of light, again scribbled by Leonardo da Vinci himself. The owner of the drawing, only identified as A.B. in his court documents, is of French nationality and in his 80s.

A.B. first approached the French court in 2016 for an export license for the drawing; he was planning to sell it at the TAJAN auction house in Paris. According to French law, artworks and cultural objects deemed to be of national importance to the country require an export license before they are sold. The law also allows the French government to match the offer to acquire the work themselves from the seller.

The man’s initial application for the export license was rejected. Instead, the French Ministry of Culture offered to buy the Leonardo da Vinci drawing from him, on behalf of the Louvre Museum, for €10 million ($10.6 million). However, A.B. declined the offer. Later, the work was re-appraised by experts and revised to be worth around $15.6 million.

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However, instead of making an updated offer, the French Ministry of Culture instead accused A.B., in 2021, of having stolen the work, and asked him to provide provenance for the same. After initially trying to solve the accusation off-court, A.B. was forced to seek an injunction at a French court against the ministry. Last week, the court ruled in favor of A.B.; the ministry was instructed to grant an export license in 2 months as well as pay $2,120 in legal costs.