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    Leonardo da Vinci’s Head of a Bear will highlight the Exceptional Sale Christie’s in London on July 8.  This penetrating study of a bear’s head is one of less than eight surviving drawings by Leonardo in private hands outside the British Royal Collection and the Devonshire Collections at Chatsworth. Measuring 2 ¾ x 2 ¾ inches (7 x 7 cm) it is executed in silverpoint on a pale pink-beige prepared paper, a technique which Leonardo was taught by his master Andrea del Verrocchio. The drawing will be on public exhibition at Christie’s in Rockefeller Centre in New York from May 8 and at Christie’s Hong Kong from May 20 – 25. It will be on view in London June from 1 – 6. It is expected to sell for £8,000,000-12,000,000.

    The drawing’s distinguished history can be traced back to Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), the renowned British painter whose collection of old master drawings is considered among the greatest ever assembled. After 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 twentieth century, the drawing was in the collection of another great British collector, Captain Norman Robert Colville, who also owned Head of a Muse by Raphael which sold for £29,161,250 at Christie’s in 2009.

    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, Louvre Abu Dhabi; Moscow, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and Saint Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum in 2018*.

    The medium connects this sheet to three similar small-scale studies of animals, a study of two cats and a dog in the British Museum, its companion double-sided sheet with studies of a dog’s paws in the National Galleries of Scotland, and a study of a walking bear in the Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The studies can all be dated to the first half of the 1480’s.

    The face of the bear is very close to the ermine in Leonardo’s portrait of Cecilia Gallerani or Lady with an Ermine now in the Krakow Museum.

    Leonardo da Vinci,1452-1519, Head of a Bear

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