Christie’s auction house may have sold an original Leonardo Da Vinci painting for $21,000 when it could be worth at least $150 million.
A portrait reportedly from a 500-year-old book about the Duke of Milan is said to depict the duke’s illegitimate daughter.
Christie’s first obtained the portrait, La Bella Princessa, in 1998, believing it was originally created by a 19th century Nazarene German artist. If the portrait is proven to be a Da Vinci original, it’s estimated worth is reportedly $150 million.
The origins of the artwork, however, continues to be debated.
Oxford art historian Martin Kemp, who has studied Da Vinci for 40 years, believes the art piece to be Da Vinci’s handiwork.
He explained to LiveScience that when he first saw the portrait he immediately recognized the art master’s left-handed style. Kemp is further convinced of the portrait’s authenticity because it looks as though the page was taken from a book.
"We knew it came from a book, you have the stitch holes and can see the knife cut,” Kemp said.
A Da Vinci piece has never been found to be completed on vellum, a skin normally used for writing and printing. That detail has become a major arguing point for experts who don’t agree with Kemp, though he later found one such page torn from a set of books titled Sforziad. He explained further that upon studying one book within the set that the stitch holes on the page match up with stitching within the book.
“Finding it is a miracle in a way. I was amazed … When doing historical research on 500-year-old objects … you hardly get the circle completed in this way," said Kemp.
Still, many experts don’t agree that the piece is an original.
The Albertina art gallery in Vienna decided not to exhibit the drawing, because when the painting was examined by their institution, "no one is convinced that it is a Leonardo," art gallery director Klaus Albrecht Schröder told ArtNews.
Kemp will be publishing his findings in an updated edition of his book Leonardo. National Geographic also will be producing a documentary on the search for the portrait’s origins to air early 2012.