Art ‘Expert’ Vanishes With an Elderly Client’s Precious Leonardo da Vinci Sketch

Her lawyer suspects she was exploited because of her age.

Leonardo da Vinci, Self-Portrait (1512–15). Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images.

A Bordelaise octogenarian woman got more than she bargained for when she hired an art specialist to authenticate a possible Leonardo da Vinci sketch in her possession.

The elderly woman was obviously not the only one to hope her portrait showing a young black woman in profile and signed by Da Vinci was truly part of the distinguished Italian master’s oeuvre. The “expert” assigned to authenticate the precious work absconded with it before completing his evaluation, reports Le Figaro.

The stolen sketch. Possibly by the hand of Leonardo da Vinci.

The stolen sketch. Possibly by the hand of Leonardo da Vinci.

The drawing was given to the woman by her father, an antiquarian in the center of Bordeaux, and had been in her possession for several years. The woman entrusted the portrait to the specialist, hoping to have it authenticated in the interest of selling it.

The supposed expert, with the sketch in tow, vanished quickly thereafter, but not before liquidating his company and leaving no trace of his whereabouts.

The plaintiff’s lawyer suspects the man sought to take advantage of an elderly woman, and targeted his client in the hope of exploiting her reduced capacity in order to get his hands on a valuable object.

If the portrait is truly a Leonardo da Vinci, it could be worth several tens of millions of euros.

That said, another expert who examined the sketch around a decade ago concluded that the work might actually be by Passarotti, another 16th century Italian painter. But this is poor consolation for the owner because even if it is a Passarotti, it could still have brought in hundreds of thousands of euros.

To know the exact sum, the elderly lady could have amassed through the sale, the drawing would have to be evaluated again, this time by an expert worth his salt. For now, all she can do is hope the thief is apprehended, or is struck by a sudden bout of remorse.

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