It’s an auctioneer’s jackpot dream. A man walks in off the street, opens a portfolio of drawings, and there, mixed in with the jumble of routine low-value items, is a long-lost work by Leonardo da Vinci.
And that, more or less, is what happened to ThaddÃ©e Prate, director of old master pictures at the Tajan auction house here, which is to announce on Monday the discovery of a drawing that a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art says is by Leonardo, the Renaissance genius and master draftsman. Tajan values the work at 15 million euros, or about $15.8 million. On Thursday, this reporter was ushered into Tajan’s private viewing room, where the drawing, of the martyred St. Sebastian, about 7Â½ inches by 5 inches, stood resplendent in an Italian Renaissance gold frame on an old wooden easel.
In March, Mr. Prate recalled being “in a bit of a rush” when a retired doctor visited Tajan with 14 unframed drawings that had been collected by his bibliophile father. (The owner’s name and residence somewhere in “central France” remain a closely guarded secret, at his request.) Mr. Prate spotted a vigorous pen-and-ink study of St. Sebastian tied to a tree, inscribed on the mount “Michelange” (Michelangelo).