Back in 1998, a vellum-sheet portrait sold at Christie’s for some £11,400 at Christie’s. But today the bidder who bought at £11,399 is ballistic. The painting, once thought to be nothing more than a 19th-century pastiche by an unknown German painter is now being accredited to one Leonardo Da Vinci.
The Guardian guesstimates this bloody bad boy ought’a go for some 100 million English pounds!
The famous art historian, Martin Kemp is the main proponent of the painting’s Da Vinci authenticity. The investigation commenced when Kemp identified the mysterious woman in the portrait as “Bianca Sforza, the daughter of Leonardo’s patron Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan (1452-1508), and his mistress Bernardina de Corradis.” He discussed his discovery in the book ‘La Bella Principessa: The Story of the New Masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci.’
Kemp confirmed suspicions when he identified a likely source of the portrait in a volume of portraits made for the marriage of Bianca Sforza and the duke’s commander, Galeazzo Sanseverino, in 1496. The book, now kept in the Warsaw National Gallery, seems to have been a wedding gift of some sort.
Kemp knows of the low odds of ever finding a match for the page hunt of the Bella Principessa. The hunt was most likely some sort of wild goose chase for a 500 year old book with a missing page; even if it did survive it was still quite unlikely that it would be found.
Kemp remembers the exact moment when he opened that lucky volume: “Yes, lo and behold, we could identify that there was a page clearly removed. The stitch-holes matched, the vellum matched. It is indeed 1496, it is indeed Bianca and indeed for her marriage. It’s uncanny.” After this discovery Kemp became convinced. “Assertions that it is a forgery, a pastiche, or a copy of a lost Leonardo are all effectively eliminated…”
Still, yet one more clue to the mystery is a fingerprint on the vellum, which Peter Biro, a “forensic art expert,” matched to a Da Vinci fingerprint over at the Vatican. Nonetheless, the matter has been complicated since Biro received a “scathing profile in The New Yorker magazine questioning the validity of Biro’s fingerprint-identification methods for authenticating artworks,” including a print by Jackson Pollock.