A tiny sketch of a bear by Leonardo da Vinci, Head of a Bear, measuring less than 8 square inches and dating from the first half of the 1480s, sold for over $12 million on Thursday, at Christie’s auction house. The work was consigned by the New York collectors Thomas and Daphne Recanati Kaplan, whose art holdings, known as the Leiden Collection, focus primarily Dutch Golden Age painting holdings. It only got a single bid. The sketch was made on pale pink-beige paper using silverpoint. The drawing, which includes the artist’s signature, was initially expected to fetch up to £12 million ($16.82 million). It eventually sold at the lower end of the estimate, at around £8.9 million ($12.2 million).
While Leonardo is best known for oil paintings like the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper,” the Renaissance master was also celebrated for his anatomical sketches. His drawings of cats and dogs, as well as one of a bear walking, are among those on display at institutions including the British Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art. “These prices are absurd,” Jean-Luc Baroni, an Old Master drawing dealer, told media. “OK, it’s a Leonardo. But it’s so tiny.” A much larger, recently authenticated Leonardo drawing of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian was set to come to market at French auction house Tajan in 2016, but France declared the artwork a national treasure and issued an export ban.