The Dutch artist Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533) worked prolifically during his lifetime, but his works are now incredibly rare. Only 28 of his drawings are known to have survived.
It was therefore a momentous occasion for Old Master drawings specialist Furio Rinaldi and his colleagues when they were asked to auction a Van Leyden drawing from the collection of Rugby School in the English Midlands. This depiction in black chalk of a swashbuckling young man was the last of the 28 extant Van Leyden drawings still in private hands.
‘We took the drawing on a round-the-world tour, stopping off in New York, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and London,’ says Rinaldi. ‘Each time it was unveiled, the excitement at seeing this astonishingly rare and important work, which foretells Dutch Golden Age art, was palpable.’
The auction room in London was packed for the sale, and as the drawing — lot 60 of 156 — approached, people gathered for one final glimpse of the work before it potentially disappeared again.
‘Van Leyden, alongside Raphael, became only the second Old Master artist ever to have a drawing sell for more than £10,000,000’ — Furio Rinaldi
‘The audience gasped when the bidding reached £3 million, but then it just kept on going,’ says Rinaldi. ‘By the time it got to £8 million the battle was between two rivals bidders, one in the room and one on the phone. That’s when I began to hold my breath.’
The contest was decided when the work finally sold for £11,483,750 (including buyer's premium) — more than seven times its estimate.
‘It was a great moment for the market,’ says the specialist. ‘It set a new world record price for any work by Van Leyden, who alongside Raphael became only the second Old Master artist ever to have a drawing sell for more than £10,000,000.
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‘It’s fantastic for Rugby School, too, because the sale attracted bidding from 33 countries and achieved almost £15,000,000 in total, which will greatly benefit the scholarship programme of this renowned British institution for years to come.’