Finding out an old scrap of paper, a family heirloom, or a flea market find is actually worth millions seems like something that only happens in movies. After all, priceless artifacts are carefully watched over, aren’t they?
Well, not always. It’s rare, but pieces of history doturn up at flea markets.Some even hide in plain sight for years before someone recognizes what they really are.
That’s what happened back in March 2016, when a retired doctor brought a collection of old drawings tothe Tajan auction house in Paris.
Most of the drawings were nice, but nothing special, untilThadde Prate, director of old master drawings at the auction house, saw something that set his heart racing.
It was a small ink drawing, browned with age, showing the martyrdom of St.Sebastian. Prate believed it was a long-lost drawing from the Renaissance master himself, Leonardo da Vinci.
Of course, he wasn’t about to go making wild claims. Prate sought a second opinion from another expert, Patrick de Bayser.
de Bayser discovered two more sketches on the back of the drawing that looked scientific in nature, complete with tiny notes written backward. He also noted that the drawing had been created by a left-handed artist.
Leonardo da Vinci was left-handed, and he was known for making notes in a curious, mirrored handwriting. Still, it seemed impossible. How can a da Vincioriginal justappear like that?
But when a third expert was called in, it was, as far as they could tell, confirmed. This drawing, that had been shut in a folder with 13 other drawings, was really created by Leonardo da Vinci.