When it was first announced in The New York Times with an impressive level of public relations skill by French auction house Tajan, that a country doctor had walked in with some Old Master drawings that happened to contain a sketch of St. Sebastian by Leonardo da Vinci that convinced some prominent experts, it seemed only a matter of time until the French government stepped in to bigfoot the artefact. Indeed, the big splash may have been targeted toward provoking the French state to act.
Now, according to The Art Newspaper, a temporary export ban has been placed on the work which gives the government some time to figure out its next move. Something similar happened recently with a pair of Rembrandt portraits sold by the Rothschild family:
According to protocol, the move gives the government 30 months to buy the work at market value; Tajan has valued the piece at €15m. A statement from the ministry of culture dated 28 December says that this “rare item… is precious testimony to the genius of Leonardo da Vinci; it is essential that it is kept [in France].” The auction house declined to comment on the government ruling and has not released any information about a sale of the drawing.
French government places export bar on €15m Leonardo da Vinci drawing (The Art Newspaper)