A LEONARDO da Vinci drawing valued at £10million has been discovered after lying buried in a box for decades.
The small pen-and-ink drawing is now at the center of a battle between its owner and France’s culture ministry that is playing out in a Paris court.
The court will hear if the drawing of a martyred Saint Sebastian tied to a tree is allowed to leave France for eventual purchase by a foreign buyer, according to France24.
The masterpiece was uncovered by a man named John B, who is in his 80s and received the drawing from his dad as a gift for passing his medical school exams in 1959.
The doctor had left it in storage among several other drawings for more than 60 years before he came across it while moving house in 2016.
Jean then decided to get them valued by the Tajan auction house, and he was told they were valued at between £20,000 and £25,000.
However they were soon inspected by two other experts, Patrick de Bayser and Carmen Bambach of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York who realised that the drawing was done by Leonardo.
The value of the small drawing then soared to between £6.8million and £10million.
But the French government sooned stepped in, saying that the drawing is a “national treasure” and that it would be acquired by the Louvre museum.
But they’re bid for the rare artwork fell short of Jean B’s hopes as they offered just £8.5million – which he refused.
Now Jean is fighting for a license for an export permit so he can sell the drawing to a foreign buyer – but the culture ministry has refused, claiming that the drawing may in fact have been stolen.
Jean B.’s lawyer Olivier Baratelli slammed the government’s handling of the painting’s discovery as “catastrophic”.
“A culture ministry worthy of its name would have ensured the French state acquire such a drawing,” he said.