The first new drawing to be ascribed to Leonardo since 2000, the 7.5 x 5in (19.3 x 13cm) work on paper is due to go under the hammer in June 2017.
On one side the paper shows the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian and on the other side are two scientific studies, one of shadows created by a candle and the other of light and shadow. The drawing was brought in by an anonymous client along with 14 other unframed drawings.
The auction house called in the expertise of Dr Carmen Bambach of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to corroborate the attribution. A statement issued by the Met dubbed the piece “an exciting new discovery of an authentic double-sided sheet by the master”.
The figure in the recently-discovered drawing is believed to be one of eight Saint Sebastians mentioned in the artist’s Codex Atlanticus, a 12 volume bound set of his drawings and writings.
The consignment to Tajan follows other works that have emerged in the last six years that have been attributed to Leonardo. One was the mixed-media on velum known as La Bella Principessa which was claimed to be by Leonardo in 2009. It has since been the subject of some debate and a legal case.
In 2011, the National Gallery approved another painting Salvator Mundi as being by the hand of the master. It was later sold for around $80m in a private sale brokered by Sotheby’s.