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Leonardo da Vinci’s Head of a Bear to be offered at Christie’s

It’s a rare opportunity to procure one of only 8 drawings by Leonardo da Vinci known to be in private hands

May 11, 2021: Quite a realistic interpretation, Leonardo da Vinci’s Head of a Bear will be offered for sale at Christie’s in London as a highlight lot in the Exceptional Sale, taking place live on July 8. 

Leonardo da Vinci Head of a bear

One of less than eight surviving drawings by Leonardo still in private hands outside of the British Royal Collection and the Devonshire Collections at Chatsworth, this artwork measures 2 3⁄4 x 2 3⁄4 inches (7 x 7 cm), and is executed in silverpoint on a pale pink-beige prepared paper, using a technique which Leonardo was taught by his master Andrea del Verrocchio. It is expected to sell for £8,000,000-12,000,000.

The drawing’s history can be traced back to Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), a renowned British painter whose collection of old master drawings is considered among the greatest ever assembled. After Sir Lawrence’s death in 1830, the drawing passed to his dealer (and major creditor) Samuel Woodburn, who sold it at Christie’s in 1860 for £2.50. In the first half of the 20th century, the drawing was in the collection of another great British collector, Captain Norman Robert Colville, who also owned Raphael’s Head of a Muse, sold at Christie’s in 2009 for £29,161,250 ($48,009,960).

Since its first public exhibition in 1937, it has also been shown at museums around the world including the London National Gallery’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibition in 2011-12. The work was exhibited in London, The National Gallery, Leonardo da Vinci Painter at the Court of Milan, 2011-12; Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi; Moscow, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and Saint Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum in 2018.

Stijn Alsteens, International Head of Department, Old Masters Group, Christie’s Paris comments, “After having sold Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing Horse and Rider in 2001 for over £8m ($11m), still the world record for a drawing by the artist today, Christie’s is proud to offer another work by arguably the greatest draughtsman the world has ever known. I have every reason to believe we will achieve a new record in July for Head of a Bear, one of the last drawings by Leonardo that can be expected to come onto the market."