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Leonardo Da Vinci's drawing of the head of a BEAR is set to fetch up to £12m at auction

Leonardo Da Vinci's drawing of the head of a bear is set to be sold for up to £12 million in an auction, despite measuring less than three inches squared. 

The picture, titled 'Head Of A Bear', is being sold in London by the Christie's auction house, but not before it has gone on display in New York, Hong Kong and London.

It is expected to fetch between £8 million and £12 million, according to Christie's. It will lead the auction house's 'Exceptional Sale' on July 8.

Leonardo Da Vinci's drawing titled 'Head of a Bear' (pictured) is set to be sold for up to £12 million in an auction, despite measuring less than three inches squared

Ben Hall, old master paintings chairman at Christie's New York, described the drawing as 'one of the most important works from the Renaissance still in private hands'.

He added: 'The work has been owned by some of the most distinguished collectors in the field of old masters across many centuries, not least the present owner who has owned it since 2008.

'It has been admired around the world whilst shown by prestigious museums and Christie's is honoured to bring this Leonardo to the market this season.'

The piece is a silverpoint drawing on a pink-beige paper, that depicts - as the name suggests - a sketch of a bear's head. The signature of Leonardo da Vinci is written in the bottom-right hand corner.

 The auction house says it is 'one of less than eight surviving drawings by Leonardo still in private hands outside of the British Royal Collection and the Devonshire Collections at Chatsworth'. 

The sale could beat the 2001 sale for Da Vinci's 'Horse and Rider' for more than 8 million pounds, a record for a drawing by the Italian Renaissance master, according to Christie's.

'I have every reason to believe we will achieve a new record in July for 'Head of a Bear', one of the last drawings by Leonardo that can be expected to come onto the market,' Stijn Alsteens, International Head of Department, Old Masters Group, Christie's Paris, said in a statement.

The drawing's ownership can be traced to British painter Thomas Lawrence and upon his death in 1830, it was passed to his dealer Samuel Woodburn. He sold it to Christie's in 1860 for £2.50, according to the auction house.

Its current owner has had it since 2008, it said.

Pictured: Royal Collection Trust staff pose beside some of Leonardo Da Vinci's anatomical studies at A Life in Drawing, the largest exhibition of Leonardo's work in more than 65 years, at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace in London, Britain, May 23, 2019 [file photo]

'Head of a Bear' will go on display at Christie's in New York on Saturday, then in Hong Kong later in the month before going on show in London from June 1 to June 6.   

Should the sketch be sold for £12 million, it would not be the first time a Da Vinci pairing has broken auction records. 

In 2017, da Vinci's Salvator Mundi sold at Christie's in New York for $450.3 million - the equivalent of around £322 million today - despite questions over its authenticity.

The depiction of Jesus was purchased by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud, the first and current Saudi minister of culture.

However, it has been reported that he may have been a stand-in bidder for his close ally and Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. The painting's whereabouts is currently unknown.

His other works, such as the Mona Lisa that is found at the Louvre Museum in Paris, are considered priceless.

In addition to Da Vinci's paintings, such as the Mona Lisa that is widely regarded as the most famous in the world, the Italian renaissance polymath's drawings are among some of the most treasured items in museum and private collections.

His most famous drawing is considered to be the Vitruvian Man, a sketch that represents the artist's ideal body proportions., kept in Venice.

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